Sunday, 22 March 2015

The job scene 2

The task of government, and responsible corporations is to look a bit more broadly than what will create profits. Setting out with the goal of making it easy to sack "expensive workers" or  further marginalize "exploitable workers". Confidence and a good economy go together. (I'm sure I could find a reference for this if I tried  but AFAICS it's common sense.)

Students look for "safe" jobs not for stimulating jobs. People stay in jobs they don't like because they have minimal chance get jobs they like more. Many part time workers are locked into full time hours without the time or the money to reskill or upskill. People who leave a job and have work gaps are seen as unreliable, unsuited to employment. For people who don't have family to fall back on, it's ruthless.

A few ideas off the top of my head...
  • pay people a living wage - which can only be done by changing the tax dependent status that keeps wages artificially low (this has flow on effects with childcare provisions which would need addressing).

  • part time workers are excluded by the system and do not receive annual bonuses the way regular employees do.  They should.

  • companies that have had tax cuts, should be passing on wage rises to employees, especially if the companies are profitable.

  • people should receive the same wages for the same work, regardless of employment status.

  • I have grave doubts about company's providing health insurance to full time workers but not part time workers.  Bring in a single system like Aus. Medicare that still has optional private health to top it up. Too many part time workers are outside the medical system.

  • stop keeping full time workers generalists - let people get good at things - let them be employable. (Companies can't complain about having dead wood workers if they don't value their employees.)

  • encourage companies to see the value of workers who have worked elsewhere and can bring fresh ideas

  • Facilitate horizontal movement between companies.

  • make sure full time workers  take annual leave

  • have transparent decision making within companies about promotions / transfers

  • communicate with employees about what they want / what ideas they have and not simply give directives as if they're robots.

  • encourage further education - currently there is no tax benefit or employer benefit for educating oneself. (It would be good for the education system as well - I've only had one mature age student, and she was only a few years older in 5 or so years of university teaching.)

  • allow more work flexibility like part time work with the same professional status, leave without pay, etc  

  • give part time workers more certainty (at the moment in teaching 3 year fixed, non-renewable contracts are common... people can't spent time teaching well if they need to be publishing and looking for the next job.)
  • have genuine work co-operation based on appreciation of other people's skill rather than the time they have been in the company. (I don't simply mean "merit based pay" which can often be really subjective and based on false premises.)

  • re-educate then remove "power-hara" bosses who cause so much misery to people who are often trapped in their jobs 

At the risk of making a massive generalization, there is a real lack of appreciation for people in Japan.  People are in roles and they follow the role. I've asked students eating bento (lunch boxes) who made their bento. Invariably they answer their mother.  I always follow it up with "so do you thank her everyday and tell her how much you enjoyed it".  They always answer "no".   I always reply with, when was the last time you told her that you enjoyed it.... Usually they can't remember.  It's okaasan's task to make it; it's the student's task to eat it.   

It's much the same in the workplace. There is very little that I have seen in a workplace here where staff members (particularly part time workers) are nurtured and encouraged as human beings in an organised way.   There is some mentoring and advice about work tasks. There are individuals of their own volition who can be supportive, but I think it's a common experience in Japan that full time workers tend to have acquaintances at work rather than friends. I see more genuine camaraderie between part time workers; I guess it's survival. Part time workers have no support from the employer.  

The mental gulf between part time and full time workers is also extreme - perhaps driven by the guilt of the latter - and friendships between the two seem uncommon.

Rather than making workers more sackable as a way to improve Japan, as Ms US Chamber of Commerce was advocating, the Japanese economy would be better much better served by valuing and appreciating individuals in the society, not just in the workplace but in the family and education.  This would require a major social shift and should be achieve through persuasion and dialogue, not coersion.

If great hopes make great men, I wonder what happens to men and women with few hopes.


Rurousha said...

"If great hopes make great men, I wonder what happens to men and women with few hopes." They vote for the LDP.

Another great analysis. Let me go think about this a bit more.

Cecilia said...

I really feel the work situation is lose-lose: Part timers have no money and often no time; full timers have money and no time and often no family life; single people are screwed by a system that favours couples; kids are screwed by a system that favours older people; 65+ people are screwed by a system that puts them out to pasture.

It's my idealism creeping again, but I think building positive esteem, having the system be tolerant of people making mistakes and learning so people didn't always have to take the "safe" and uninspired route, letting people become good at things and giving them confidence in their ability; and changing the structure so that people are able to move jobs and improve their lot in life would go a long way to helping Japan's economy. It doesn't have to be egocentric, Americanized survival of the fittest, but looking for intrinsic worth and encouraging people to do & be their best...
Maybe it's just as well I'm a teacher... I don't think I'd survive long in today's business world.

Andrew Wright said...

Fascinating posts. Sadly, the management class in the west seems to be mainly made up of professional psychopaths whose job description is to compete over power and benefits rather than work for the long term good of the company and its employees. After all, building self-esteem doesn't build the short term share price does it?

But positively supporting employees is a way of building loyalty and productivity for an employer.

Cecilia said...

Agree on all counts.
And the limited contact I've had with HR people... they wouldn't have the foggiest idea what makes a competent employee outside their own area of expertise.
The economic system is so oriented towards the profitability of companies at the expense of individuals and society as a whole.
I'm much more inclined to favour incentives derived from good will than draconian rules that companies try to skirt around...

A bit Confucian really... Cultivate hearts as the path to cultivating the nation... (though in this day and age I'd opt for society not nation)

It's a bit of a tangent but this
makes a good read. Esp. point 1. Where corporations (without a conscience) take precedence over people, ultimately people suffer.

Anonymous said...

Japanese companies are afraid to hire full-time employees because of onerous labour laws.

If PM Abe's "Third Arrow" ever really kicks in and labour laws are loosened, thereby making it easier to hire workers or make them redundant, the situation will improve.

But there are too many vested interests keeping the sinking ship just barely afloat.

Strict labour laws are the reason that older, male workers have it so good and younger workers have to scramble for crumbs in part-time jobs.

Deregulation is the answer.

Cecilia said...

"Deregulate" and "strict labour laws" are common mantra for improving the Japanese economy. But they are very vague terms that can mean different things to different people.
What exactly are you proposing?