ABDUL AZIZ ARAIN *
Dec 31, 2001 - Jan 06,
Japanese culture has many unique features. The
following four being among the most characteristic.
Multi-layered. Japanese Culture is made up of
many layers-old and new, foreign and native. Politics is a mixture of
old and new customs. The three essentials of food, clothing and
shelters are blends of Japanese and Western elements. Japanese
practice both Buddhist and Shinto rites, and more than half of the
Japanese language comprise of Chinese - derivative words. Japanese
culture are the curiosity Japanese Peoples have for other cultures and
the historic process of assimilation as Japanese welcome foreign
culture elements without discarding indigenous culture and traditions.
Homogeneity. Japanese culture by region,
religion and person, is basically uniform throughout the country,
which shows the same pattern. Primary importance has traditionally
been placed on the group rather than on the individual, and this
heritage accounts for much of Japanese society's uniformity.
Japanazation. Japanese have been very adept at
making foreign elements their own to create something that is uniquely
Japanese. This trait goes back beyond the Honen period when Japanese
characters were created out of more complex Chinese characters.
Pragmatism. The Japanese are highly pragmatic,
emphasizing specific circumstances more than universal truths. Even in
modern science, Japanese show more aptitude for scientific
applications than for basic research.
JAPANESE WORK ETHIC.
Hardworking Japanese. Japanese economy earlier
has grown much stronger, the Japanese People have come to be known the
world over as hard workers. The zeal with which Japanese pursue their
work is based not so much on the profit motive as it is on the value
of working. The act of working is subconsciously accepted as a
spiritual discipline, whereas economic gain, is the prize to be gained
through selfless devotion to their work. This orientation lives on in
the Japanese companies, and this is a major reason why Japanese work
so hard. As such the Japanese work ethic differs radically from the
modern European attitude that work is basically an exchange of labour
and time for money and that neither the work nor the act of working
has any inherent value.
This difference is also seen as major cause of the
difference between business management in the contractual west and
what might be called the distinctively Japanese style of Management.
Changing attitudes. The Japanese work ethic has
been undergoing significant changes in recent past. While work is
still held in the high esteem, there has been considerable erosion on
the motivation side. This is partly because goals have become more
elusive. The pleasant slow growth, extra work is not rewarded by a
higher income, and the graying of the Japanese population is creating
a shortage of upper management posts. Further, that, the Japanese have
attained a relatively high level of material affluences, their values
have become more individualized, and many peoples particularly young
peoples — are placing greater emphasis on personal interest
activities outside of their work.
Japanese have always put work before pleasure and
performed the duties with a touch of spiritual obligations. The
working attitudes and disciplines of the Japanese workers itself a
model by itself. There is no concept of late attendance and
absenteeism from work place. The time punctuality not in work places
but in all other public life disciplines also so accurate that it
gives a touch of surprise to the outsider/visitor to Japan. There have
been some major changes noticed in the way the Japanese view
recreation since the mid 1970s and of the economy's rapid growth.
While the slower economic growth of the late 1970s people began using
their leisure time for what might be called lifestyle enhancement or
LONGEVITY. Japan is rapidly become a nation of
old people. About 40 years ago, people spoke of fifty years of life.
Since 1988 improvement in the standard of living and advance in
medical science had brought about striking reductions in both the
birth rate and the mortality rate to lengthen the average life span to
75.5 years for males and 81.3 years for females, making Japan the
JAPANESE DECISION - MAKING PROCESS
The Japanese decision making process differs from
the Western process. Decision in Japanese organizations are made from
the bottom up. The final and formal responsibility for a particular
decision rest with the nominal decision maker in Japan, the actual
decision making process itself is a cooperative efforts with the
cooperation of everyone involved in or affected by the decision
implementation. The good decision making is the one who listen to
everyone and leads the group towards a consensus coalescing around the
idea that has the broadest support. The Japanese decision makers need
to be skilled not so much in problem analysis as in people analysis
and negotiating a consensus from among differing viewpoints. The
bottom up decision making process entails more than just choosing the
best of a number of plans. With several competing plans and many
variations of each plan under consideration at the same time, the
result is very often an amalgam of elements from many different
sources. This amalgamation is done to ensure the best possible
decision and the smoothest possible implementations.
Lifetime Employment Security. Under Japan's
employment system, an employee who does what he is told, gets along
with his fellow workers, and makes no major blunders can reasonably
expect to be employed with the same company guaranteeing his social
standing and income for the rest of his working life, even if he/she
is not an especially outstanding performer.
Because the Japanese company guarantees its workers
livelihood until retirement, people can concentrate on their work in
the realization that they and their company share a common fate.
Knowing the company's success will mean enhanced livelihood, security
and an improved standard of living for themselves and working for the
same company for all of their working lives.
Recruitment and promotions. Most Japanese
companies hire new people in once-a-year recruitment drive, during
which prospective graduates are tested, interviewed, and finally
hired. Each company decides before hand how many people it intends to
hire given its business outlook and other considerations.
Candidates are chosen not so much for their
professional skills as for their character and academic background.
Commonly they are hired, not for specific department or for any
specific job but by the Company as a whole for a wide range of work.
Once hired, employees are trained on the job and reassigned every few
years to give them broad generalist experience and ensure their long
Most Japanese companies hire women under a separate
systems and assign them jobs as assistants to male employees,
although, pressure is building up to end this discrimination.
Seniority based rewards
Seniority based rewards with lifetime employment is
a distinguishing characteristic of Japanese style of management.
Employees receive basic salaries geared to their entry level salaries.
Those basic salaries are then supplemented by special allowances for
managerial or technical expertise, family size and structure, and
other special factors. The seniority based wage system was devised as
a means of guaranteeing the livelihoods of all employees through out
their lifetime career with the Company. Although the seniority based
system worked well by stimulating healthy competition for promotions,
the shortage of higher level openings has eroded employee motivation
and even company loyalty. Some companies are attempting to maintain
employee morale by restructuring their organizations to allow wider
investment and by basing promotions more on ability to reward the
better qualified people. Then entire system of seniority based rewards
is on its way out, and Japanese company employees will increasingly
have to face the pressure of performance based competition.
WEEKENDS AND PAID VACATIONS
Japan, upto 1988 was the only country where people
worked more than 2,000 hours per year, they intend to reduce it to
1880 hours. The labour union intend to have rather shorter hours of
work than higher pay, but the strong domestic demand and vigorous
economic activity have worked against this idea. More and more
Japanese companies are adopting the two days week end.
The average Japanese worker is allowed 15.1 days
paid vacation per year, actually takes only 7.6. half of the
entitlement. This is partly because people enjoy their work, it is
also because there is so much work to do that people can not take all
the time off.
Japanese salaried workers normally receive a
monthly salary plus two bonuses annually, once in the summer and one
at the year's end, beside additional bonuses depending on company's
performance. Bonuses are an integral part of Japanese salaried workers
GROWTH OF TRADE UNIONS IN JAPAN
In 1945 the number of enterprise based unions were
about 40,000. The rapid growth in the industry brought a change in
Trade Unions, upto 1955 the Trade Unions were reported violent and bad
labour management, this was the period when labour did not know how to
behave and management did not know how to deal. In 1995 there are
about 72,000 Enterprise based Trade Unions in Japan.
The Trade Unions slogans in different periods
1957 Wages to eat
1963 Wages just equal to Europe, Wages should attain the larger
1976 Wages to achieve substantial increase.
1988 Wages - living standard should be equal to Europe
Today Affluence .
Japan's Labour Unions are organized as enterprise
base Union with membership restricted to regular, full-time employees
of the company. These enterprise unions seek to maintain and improve
their member's standard of living by bargaining for pay raises and
defending employee's rights within the framework of lifetime
employment and seniority- based rewards. The enterprise unions are
fully aware and recognize that their survival depends on the company's
survival. It is noticed, the union refrains from making aggressive
demands at rough times and co-operates to help the company through the
crisis and demonstrate sense of reasonability and belonging.
Membership to the union is restricted to lower
level management people. If a Union member is promoted to middle
management he is no more eligible for union membership. No outsider
can be the office bearer or member of an enterprise base union.
The management and union representative negotiate
agreements regarding working conditions and other matters, realizing
that their long term prosperity to the prosperity of the company where
Japanese union leaders make an effort to be well
versed in business conditions affecting the industry and to avoid
doing anything that might jeopardize the company's survival, interest
Union are given importance and considerations in
management participation during the postwar and labour-management
consultive committee existed to participate in management decision,
mainly in such areas as production schedules, employee welfare and
personnel policy etc.
The trend of the union of the union demand, is for
single digit wage increase, but with more emphasis to job security and
shorter working hours, this helps the companies to over come on
recession and slower growth.
Agreement negotiated with the union has a validity
of one year and it is customary that union's agreements are negotiated
and commonly settled each year in spring time.
Japanese Industrial Relations fundamentals are:
1. Labour + Management should trust each other.
2. Labour + Management should realize each other.
3. Better and free communication with each other.
4. No ideological confrontation.
5. Prompt solution of grievances.
JAPANESE TRADE UNIONS HEALTHY POINTS
1. Trade Union should have their own policy.
2. It should be on equal footing.
3. Democratic in character.
4. Attitude should not be of a dictator.
5. Decisions should be made in work place
6. Fair relation between management and labour.
Japan's Ministry of Labour aim to Promoting Workers
Welfare and Contributing to the Stability of National Life. Their
mission is to build a society in which all workers and their families
can achieve better and more affluent lives, along with jots
satisfaction, with emphasis on the following:
1. Improving workers livelihood so that
people can lead more pleasant lives,
2. Responding appropriately to trends in the labour force and
changes in the employment structure,
3. Training workers and Development of Human Resources which
can promote the development of Japan's economy and society,
4. Creating an environment in which older people can give full
play to their various abilities,
5. Implementing measures to employ disabled persons and other
requiring special consideration,
6. Making active contribution to the International Community.
LABOUR - MANAGEMENT RELATIONS
Under the constitution, worker are guaranteed the
right to organize, to bargain collectively and to strike. The labour
union Law exempt Labour Union from civil or criminal responsibility
when a strike is justified, and protects against and offers relief in
the cases of labour practices. The number of disputes, the number of
workers involved in disputes, and the number of working days lost in
Japan has been very low compared to other countries for the past
decade or more. This is because, after the 1973 oil crises, workers
realized the importance of having jobs, and other wage hikes were
concerned, began considering economic conditions and corporate
performance trends. Management in response to this did as much as it
could to keep jobs secure, and this fostered a relationship of trust
between the workers and management.
The labour union law specifies no particular topics
to be discussed during collective bargaining, but according to the
survey in 1992, collective bargaining issues from 1989 to 1992
included not only working conditions like wages and working hours but
also employment and personnel and management policies which fall under
so called Management Authority.
Japan Major National Economic Organizations
Japan has four major economic organizations. each
with own particular role.
1. KEIDANREN (Japan Federation of Economic
Organization) works to bring together the opinions of business circles
on fiscal, trade and industrial policy.
2. NISSHO (The Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry)
represents the position of local business and small medium
3. DOYUKAI (The Japan Association of Corporate Executives) is
an employer's research forum which studies political, economic and
4. NIKKEIREN (The Japan Federation of Employers Association)
the central organization of employer's associations is a body
specializing in labour matters. NIKKEREN was formed to bring order to
the chaotic labour movement immediately following World War II and to
foster the industrial harmony and democratic labour relations.
Nikkeiren meets regularly with RENGO, Labours national center, to
discuss not just working cond, land and housing issue etc.
Position of Nikkeiren and Rengo Wages Negotiations
Nikkeiren has constantly adhered to the
productivity standard principle: domestically generated inflation can
be prevented by keeping the nation wide average wage increase in line
with the real rate of increase in national economic productivity.
Nikkeiren has encouraged individual enterprise to set wage according
to their ability to pay total labour cost compatible with their
management plans. This is because wage increase higher than the rate
of increase in real national economic productivity will not only
trigger inflation and negatively affect sound national economic
management policies, high wages and high prices will cause
difficulties for corporations and workers alike.
The 1994 spring wage negotiations were conducted
against a background of a lingering economic downturn, sudden and
sharp Yen appreciation, declining corporation profits for the fourth
consecutive year. It urged management and labour to protect enterprise
and to protect employment. and stated that realistic approach of
placing a priority on securing employment rather than raising wages
Mr. A. Aziz Arain is the Manager Human Resources
Company Secretary. Forbes Forbes Campbell Co. Private Ltd. and has
been on study mission to Japan twice nominated by EFP.