We have to change Japanese work style

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Linda Gratton will advise Japan on reforming social system

Today’s news announced Lynda Gratton, Professor of London Business School and co-author of “The 100 Year Life“, has been asked by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to join his new Advisory Council on reforming social welfare and education.

Source: Japanese Government


A more efficient welfare system is needed to address the growing number of centenarians (over 60,000 at present) across Japan.

Developing younger generations for working life is also critical in a country with a high number of ageing workers. Japan’s workforce of 65 million is expected to drop significantly to 42 million by 2050 as the population ages and shrinks.

In addition, we have to solve the issue of “Karoshi” which means death caused by working too much. There have been cases of employees who work too much overtime and die due to heart attack or suicide. The group-oriented Japanese tend to work too hard to fulfill their responsibilities.

Black company

It is originally referred to companies engaged in criminal activities, usually by having connections with organized crime. Today the term encompasses companies which exploit their employee.

The environment of Japanese corporations has been changing considerably

Many Japanese corporations, once the engines of Japan’s rapid growth, have struggled to stay competitive. One result is that Japanese employers are reevaluating the lifetime employment system and the seniority ranking system. Global competition and technological advances are forcing companies to focus more on performance and skills, rather than age, when considering employee promotions. As companies restructure, many older workers are finding themselves unemployed. At the same time, new graduates are finding that there are fewer full-time job opportunities available.

Life time employment system

Employees are guaranteed employment until retirement age in turn for their absolute loyalty to the company. This system played an important role during Japan’s high economic growth period. In recent times, more employees are being laid off, making it increasingly necessary for workers to prepare for future job changes by acquiring special knowledge and skills.

Seniority ranking system

It is the system where promotions and pay are determined by the length of one’s service to a company. This system played an important role during Japan’s high economic growth period. Now, as Japan goes through economic restructuring, companies are putting more emphasis on merit-based promotion systems.

The challenges result in changes

Despite the negative business and economic news, Japan is still a powerful economic force in the world. The challenges the country faces now may result in changes that will benefit both Japan and workers. A future worker shortage many result in more equal opportunities for women. The pressure of globalization may force the government and companies to become more streamlined and more efficient. Also, a promotion system based on merit will inspire workers to increase their knowledge and skills. Even job instability man have long term benefits, as a lot of Japanese strike out on their own to start new businesses.

“The 100 Year Life” became a best seller in Japan

The 100 Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, which explores the challenges and opportunities created by longer life expectancy. It’s a sensational publication in Japan right now.

The book is co-authored by Prof. Linda Gratton of London Business School and Andrew Scott, an economist/ macro economy specialist, who is an authority on organization theory and human resources theory – a sort of multifunctional analysis on how to live and work through the years to come.

I’ve read it at my husband’s recommendation. This is what we have to address in the future. I really advised my husband to think about future path seriously, because he also joined the Japanese financial institution and have never changed his job. He definitely has to diversify his expertise.

  • Working people in Japan pay a monthly fee to a health insurance plan. Our medical costs are largely covered by this plan. But with aging society, it might be impossible to maintain the current system.

You should think of your future path seriously. Your company won’t protect you forever!

Que Sera, Sera 

Japanese working people have to change the work style

Many of us have been raised on the traditional notion of a three-stage approach to our working lives: education, followed by work and then retirement. In Japan, many people are likely to work for the same companies for a long time. The labor liquidity is much lower than other countries.

According to “The 100-year life “, these stages would change to multi stages. We have to acquire knowledge and skill for our future path and build the network continuously, while working for the current job. That would make “intangible asset” more valuable like human network than “tangible asset”.

I’m so worried about my husband’s no sense of urgency…


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