business

Labor shortage a stress test for Japan's convenience stores

27 Comments
By Sam Nussey and Ritsuko Shimizu

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27 Comments
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I have an idea. Try raising your wage for the cashiers that work there and do an excellent job? If the wage was say ¥1600 hourly, you would have no more problems.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

There's a small kiosk at Yokohama station where you can scan your goods and do a self checkout with your Pasmo. I wonder if that's the future of all conbinis?

There's probably also a massive untapped resource of retired elderly people who could work at these stores if they were allowed to sit rather than stand at the register and work at a slightly slower pace.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Indeed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Simple supply and demand this one. Working in a convenience store is not a 3K job, so many people will do it if they raise the wage.

Our local supermarket used to be open till 11 but they moved it back to 9pm. If you can't cover staffing costs with night-time operations with Japan's pitiful wages, you shouldn't be open then.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Like dentists and beauty salons, there are simply too many conbini in Japan. The workforce isn't the only thing that's going to drop by 2065. As is usually the case, Reuters et al never wonders if perhaps 20 PTers could be replaced by say 6 FTers (2 per 8 hour shift) or connect the dots to the fact that 40% (and growing) of the workforce is irregular, w/the attendant drag on the economy that involves. The sympathy is always with the poor struggling corporations.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Agree on too many combini, we got 7(6 are from 2 chains) within 5min walk from the station.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

As someone above mentioned, self-check out! Especially with the general honesty in Japan, shouldn't be an issue.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

15 straight years of profit growth, while constraining workers' wages? Sorry, you can''t have your cake and eat it, too. Raise wages in line with your earnings, and your labor "shortage" will magically disappear.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

In Kochi a convenience store counter operative remuneration is between 660 and 880 yen per hour. This cannot remotely be described as a living wage.

The business model and relationship between productivity and profit margin suggests that somewhere up the ladder is dead wood drifting.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

The other side of the combini story:

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/04/23/issues/cost-convenience-japan-foreign-students-work-instead-study/#.WP_astzraUk

It's impossible to have any sympathy for 7 & I Holdings, winner of the Black Kigyo ( evil company ) award in 2015.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Convenience store assistants are hard workers, spot on attitude, impressive customer service skills. Most of all they are motivated.

Sourced a number of trainee ITC technicians from local  "combini"... Lawson advertise vacancies in their toilets, along with hourly rates.

My thoughts are if a employee is willing and flexible to pack bento lunch boxes, stack shelves, clean inside and outside the store, operate cash registers, take delivery of goods 24/7, cook and prepare food etc, etc all for a miserable pittance, I can put that commitment to better use and reward that loyally more appropriately .

4 ( +4 / -0 )

A raise in the hourly rate will greatly change this problem. I've seen the help wanted signs and the super low hourly rate and the hours they want people to work and I am very sure that some people take these jobs out of desperation knowing that it isn't fair with what they have to put up with.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Japan raise your wages and respect your younger workers and women. Stop treating them like apprentices and children and give them a living wage instead of this 150-250 existence. The convinience stores enjoy MASSIVE MASSIVE growth and profits, yet do not reward their workers.

If you want more labourers, pay up! If you want dirt cheap labor, yet no immigration, and don't allow foreigners to live in half the apartment buildings...well take a walk to the intelligence department in your company HQ and project what will be the scenerio now and in 5, 10, and then 20 years.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Labour shortage of underpaid labour. You'd have to be crazy to work for 1000 yen an hour. Try increasing it to 1500 yen an hour and problem solved.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is going to be exciting. I don't see a whole lot further this sector can go without different models for automation, or compensation, or flat out hiring immigrants. Some kind of revolution is coming, and it is hard to figure out who the winner is going to be.

It might be that one chain will take the plunge and all the rest will rush after it if there appears to be some relief. But owners will resist. Get ready for some real fireworks.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Alfie, spot on. 7 & I holdings stores were caught doing the exact same thing in oz a few months/ years ago. They target foreign students, give them more hours than allowed on their visa then blackmail/underpay/exploit them i.e "if you speak up you'll be sent back to your country, banned and fined".

Re Konbini situation in Japan, I think it's time they rethink their business model as it's clearly an unsustainable one they're trying to run. Who wants to be on 1000 yens/hour for dreaded night shifts or even less during normal hours? Too many konbini, declining population, crappy wages and labour shortage don't go well together.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Agree with all above posters.  There needs to be a combination of hiring elderly people who can sit instead of stand behind the counter, automation that generally helps speed things up for those elderly, raise in wages so as to attract the younger workers, and the hiring of foreign workers.  I would also add one thing...Introduce convenience store work as full time positions as well WITH a FLEX schedule that allows full timers to choose their hours every month.  They should have to work a certain number of hours to quality for full time pay, and in the case of foreigners, to have their visas renewed.  They can have 20 fixed hours a week where they HAVE TO work and which never change, with another 20 hours that are FLEX.  And if some months they are low on cash, they can work more hours.  With a decent fixed income, not slave wages, problem solved.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Like dentists and beauty salons, there are simply too many conbini in Japan. The workforce isn't the only thing that's going to drop by 2065. As is usually the case, Reuters et al never wonders if perhaps 20 PTers could be replaced by say 6 FTers (2 per 8 hour shift) or connect the dots to the fact that 40% (and growing) of the workforce is irregular, w/the attendant drag on the economy that involves. The sympathy is always with the poor struggling corporations.

You couldn't replace 20 part timers with just 6 full timers, unless those full timers worked 365 days per year without a break. You would likely need at least 10.

I agree with the general point though, if they want more workers they need to pay people a decent wage and give benefits.

> There's probably also a massive untapped resource of retired elderly people who could work at these stores if they were allowed to sit rather than stand at the register and work at a slightly slower pace.

Part of the problem though is that manning the cash register is actually only a small part of the job. I once worked as a part timer at a gas station/convenience store and half of my time was spent re-stocking shelves, mopping floors and doing other labor intensive work. It is not a physically easy job even with a chair.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

7-Eleven's solution is in its name. Cut the hours open and you'll save on the number of employees and merch required. People will go to bed at night (gasp!) and get up during the day (double gasp!)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Others suggest raising the wages, but this may be countered by having them do more in less time, with the threat of termination if the employee can't keep up. I propose instead a salary-based system. This gives the employee stability in knowing how much he will make. A 40-50 hour week cap could ensure the employee was well rested which is good for the company too.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hi, rainyday, cannot agree more, I have a Lawson about 20 minutes walk from home. On many occasions there have been just two personal on duty beavering away. Cooking ready means, a micro oven is on hand. A hot and cold buffet area has to be constantly replenished. Floors are cleaned, shelves restocked, cold drink refrigeration units refilled, making sure every single bottle label was customer facing. Every customer that enter the store was greeted , and thanked on exit. Impressive commitment.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think they are already importing labor, have you been to a combini in Tokyo lately? 9 out of 10 times the register worker is not Japanese.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Labor shortage is simple: the introduction of my number had prevented the regular baito people in working. The economy is being supported by this underground economy but since the start of my number system, I knew a lot of people just stopped working and stopped spending as well.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Their are making the condition so they can cry labour storage until they allow to employ slave labour on labour viva, s. 7/11 in the USA got several beaten up over abusing visa condition and cheap labour, This is same issue that lead to the Japanese Seven & I holding busting up in the first place. Recently Australia 7/11 was caught out on abusing student visa holder. also. A actual module by 7/11 to store owner on how to abuse the visa system was found and use in the case against 7/11.

. If the hot food is top up by the staff and it don't sell, the staff is pressure to buy the hot food not sold during that shift. Any way you look the Japanese minimum wage earner is going further under with demands of the elite for even cheaper labour get meet.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It's unrealistic to keep opening stores with a shrinking population and remain solvent as a business. With a planned reduction any losses can be mitigated better as under performing stores manifest

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Here in Shinjuku, most of convenience store workers are foreigners (mainly Asian and some Indian) who are probably students at Japanese language schools. Their work and Japanese are very good. I think it will become a form of back door immigration.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Here in Kawaguchi, most of convenience staff are Japanese. But recently, quite a lot of non- Japanese customers are around. And I'm a regular there and sometimes act voluntarily as a store's interpreter. :‑)

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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