business

Fewer workers, higher wages: Japan Inc feels pinch

40 Comments
By Malcolm Foster and Yoshiyuki Osada

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

40 Comments
Login to comment

Demand for qualified workers will always be the key to increasing wages here. But sadly to say that down here it's still just a bit over 700 yen per hour.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

1,006 yen per hour cannot remotely be described as a living wage.

Proof enough that a large proportion of these companies have bloated middle management structures, with top heavy remuneration packages. The part time contracted employee are basically financing a unsustainable group of pay grades.This would explain the low levels of productivity.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

The less workers there are, the less demand there is, so the stagflation thing is bull.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Good to see an increase in wages. Japanese companies in general are cheap. Nice to see some pressure on them to actually pay more.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

As an employer I know this situation well, I have to be competitive to get the work, but the down side is if I get to pricey I am not going to get the work, so to save money I have employed one or two younger people, but the younger generation in the UK don't won't to work hard, they have been brought up in a culture of video and computer games, and getting money of the government in unemployment benefits, the system that has been generated by ALL previous governments is that people get housing benefit, unemployment benefits, plus school meals etc, the average person needs more than £60 -70 a day before they come off the benefit system to make it worth while, most of them want to play on computers and expect to get paid colossal wages! unless your an IT consultant at the top of his/her game, its not going to happen, so to get skilled workers I have to pay large wages, if not they walk off into the next job, as highly skilled workers are in demand. I have to pay 16825 yen a day. this hit my back pocket. one of my gripes is that if I took some one on the cost of training is very expensive, so to compensate I have to offer slightly lower wage so that I can afford the training, but if there unemployed they won't do it as it means them coming of the benefit system. its a vicious circle !!

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Hallelujah! Finally the shoe is on the other foot for workers!!! no tears from reckless,,,

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I have witnessed groups of staff, clocking out and then continuing work on fruit and vegetable assembly lines, some operating motorized heavy lifting equipment.

I turned to the supervisors who shrugged, when nquiring to senior managers about the inevitable consequence to health and safety they said these measures aided all concerned. Additional earnings for the unskilled labor force and improved productivity levels for the balance sheet, politely requested I not rock the boat by detailing the practice in a report.

I was left in a impossible position. Mercifully I was only requested to submit measure to improve accounting procedures so I could beat a hasty retreat. I would not be surprised if this practice is duplicated across sectors.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

An easy way to get more workers would be to get rid of the spouse benefits or lessen them. I had drinks with a neighbourhood mom a few weeks ago and she's dying to go back to work but won't because of the benefits she gets by simply being married. A well qualified nurse who worker with kids. A huge waste of her skills and talent.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Hi Brian Wheway, Benefits of this nature are provided in the UK because failure to do so would participate violent public disorder.

If just 5% of the population in UK towns and cities felt social injustice was at a level that they could not sustain enough to provide for their families, law and order in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland would collapse within 72 hours.

Run that question past your Police and Crime Commissioner...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Ha ha! Employers complaining about losing a few % off a profit of what? Just how much profit does a company need ???

Profit is the amount made after paying all costs. So who benefits from all this extra cash? Not the employees I am sure.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

"Just how much profit does a company need ???"

The sky's the limit. Japanese companies recently had their most profitable quarter in 20 years. 2015 marked an all time high. And the companies complain. They'll never be happy.

Anyway, 60% of our GDP comes from consumption, so if the employers dont hike wages soon, the economy is gonna sink.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Japanese companies are just really stingy.

They should link generous wages to productivity and work well done.

Also put in place generous overtime arrangements.

Then more workers would want to work for them and those workers would work better.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

"These aren’t options for all companies. JP-Holdings needs qualified teachers who have passed rigorous exams in Japanese."

Yup, because if you haven't passed a rote-memory test in all Japanese subjects you can't possible take care of infants.

No sympathy.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

These workers are the lowest pay skilled workers in Australia, @ Just over Y2000 an hour. They are not just train in every day child care but are will train and skilled in 1st Aid, Skilled in general, personal Hygiene and conflict resolution. The same workers here are train to this similar standard yet they are pay like slave and worked like slaves. Want more worker. Simple. Pay a decent wage and charge a decent price, Press the Government for to make up the gap or better tax deal for sole Parents working 30 hours or more. People will see a future in Child Care if you pay a decent wage, until then you will attack nil.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Hey, stop complaining, you still have among the lowest wages in the developed world - make the most of it! You would be very hard-pressed to find anyone in the US, UK Australia, Canada etc. earning less than 1,006 yen an hour!~!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Minimum wage half of France's and 13th in the OECD, productivity lowest in the OECD, number of hours worked near the top. Stingy yes because there are no words between stingy and slavery that can encapsulate the gross conditions a worker in Japan puts up with.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

You would be very hard-pressed to find anyone in the US, UK Australia, Canada etc. earning less than 1,006 yen an hour!~! Australia minimum wage is about 1400yen/hr paying less than this is illegal attracting large fines of caught

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Higher wages? Where? Possibly in the public sector with all those brain dead zombies running around government looking for a piece of paper and a stamp for it while they are waiting for their Windows XP computer to boot up, but definitely not in the private sector.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@tmarie, what are these spousal benefits that keep married women from going back to work? I don't recall those when my wife and I were living in Japan. It was a few years back. Have things changed that much?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

what are these spousal benefits that keep married women from going back to work?

A married man can claim a tax allowance for his non-working wife (she can earn up to about a million yen PT).

The non-working wife of a salaried worker gets the same health care benefits and pension benefits as her working sister, without paying in a single red yen.

It's been this way for yonks, certainly since well before I came here. Possibly you took the tax allowance and health insurance for granted, or never noticed them because you always had them. If you're no longer in Japan, then the pension benefits won't apply to your wife.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japan is gonna pay a very high price for being so isolate linguistically. Just like any mature economy, workers from abroad need to arrive to keep the income pyramid being a pyramid. But with Japanese language being so difficult to master in a high level that some professions demand - so well illustrated in the article - there's no solution in the horizon.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@cleo, why such a beef about the spouse allowance? It seems to preserve or try to preserve a traditional family and is accepted by Japanese.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@cleo, I suppose I didn't pay the spousal benefits much attention ... my wife went to work not long after our child was born - she was ready to get out of the house and do something with her life even though it was only part-time. Many Japanese women simply don't want to work, even the highly educated ones. The few honest ones will tell you that. I suspect the "spousal benefits" excuse is just that, an excuse. My own theory is that Japanese women grown up watching the men around them suffer in the Japanese workplace and wisely choose to opt out.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

My Wife wanted to quit work(not her true profession) and I paid more in income taxes than she earned.

Was similar when we met outside japan.

But alas cancer ... she was fully covered all the way.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I can't and won't answer for Cleo but I have a lot of issues/concerns with it. You commented on"traditional" families. In a land with domestic abuse in many families, having a wife not working limits her ability to leave. Having women wanting to make less than the limit means that women are views as cheap labour, regardless of their education and ability. Men here often comment on amazing OLs who are stuck in dead end jobs. Society expect ALL women to tow the line and get married,have kids and quit. Such a waste of talent. Add in that Japan is dying for workers and taxpayers, seems stupid to basically ensure women won't get a fair wage so they quit and sponge off the system. Why should an able bodied woman with no small children or elderly family to care for be given such benefits? More so at the expense if the working poor, single mothers and dual income families? Makes no sense.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Companies that pay decent wages do not have labour shortages.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Low salaries are not the only reasons why workers leave for greener pastures.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

why such a beef about the spouse allowance?

In addition to what tmarie pointed out, (all valid points, except that her assertion that raising kids is a 'waste of talent'... ) I would add that after a life of working and paying my full share of pension premiums, I'm entitled to not a yen more than the childless ladies who have spent their whole married life warming slippers and running hot baths....and their husbands get a tax allowance with their warm slippers.

It seems to preserve or try to preserve a traditional family and is accepted by Japanese.

That 'traditional family' no longer exists, and you'd be surprised how many Japanese would like to see the system changed. There is also a general (mistaken) understanding that a person who is fully paid up into the kokumin nenkin gets a bigger pension than a housewife on a 'freebie' - lots of housewives have assured me that this is true. It isn't. She doesn't, and to add insult to injury the husband of the working wife has spent his working life paying more tax, and paying towards the freebie pensions of other men's wives.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@tmarie: "Why should an able bodied woman with no small children or elderly family to care for be given such benefits?"

Sounds like you do support the deduction if the wife has small children or elderly family to care for. I guess I agree with you then.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Article presents a rare glimmer of free market wage / price signals at work. If wages are too low there will be labour shortages.

Either pay more, or get more productive.

This is how it is supposed to work.

Central planner mandated 'qualifications' however put an limit on supply. Free this up please and let consumers decide.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Please reread Cleo. I've certainly not suggested what you've claimed. Expecting ALL to tie the lines and keep them in dead end jobs IS a waste of talent.

As for the warm slippers, are women with older kids not the same? Where is the cut off for you?

Reckless, if a woman is expected to care for family due to shortcomings of care (for the elderly) or has younger kids at home (if someone can afford private kindy, they can afford to make payments), more than happy to have my taxes going to help them. If a woman has kids in school (kindy included), no one elderly to look after, nope. The system also screws over men - high suicide rates, stress, unable to change jobs out of fear... Better wages for women would help men as well. Women will only demand they get paid their worth when this support system ends.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I've certainly not suggested what you've claimed.

It's what you seem to be suggesting: get married,have kids and quit. Such a waste of talent. Your words.

Or was it only the quitting part that is a waste of talent? No one can properly do two full-time jobs at once. Surely the responsible thing is to concentrate on the job in hand. Quit when you have a baby to look after (not when you get married) and go back to work when the child no longer needs you full-time.

are women with older kids not the same? Where is the cut off for you?

Yes, they are. I would put the cut off at the point where the kids no longer need someone at home when they get in from school. Exactly when that is may be open to discussion, but from my own experience and watching the families around me, I would say round about the time the youngest child is settled into junior high. It doesn't have to be all or nothing, of course; full exemption from paying pension premiums up to say the start of kindy, half exemption moving to quarter exemption moving through elementary school, no exemption once the child is a teenager. Same with the health insurance and hubby's tax allowance. All based on the child (or other elderly/chronically ill family member), not on the spouse. There could also be some provision for those who can, to pay premiums even when they are exempt, and for those extra payments to be reflected in the pension they eventually receive.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

from my own experience and watching the families around me, I would say round about the time the youngest child is settled into junior high

That's exactly the age I started getting into lots of trouble. My two best buddies and I had no adult supervision between the end of school, and 6pm-ish, and being young and dumb, we did a lot of foolish stuff.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Expecting women to quit so they get placed on the dead end track is a waste of talent. Not all women want kids, not all women will quit if they do. Putting men on career tracks because they are men is silly. But it happens all the time here

Your suggestion that new moms just quit and go back when ready is rather laughable. Japan, nor any other country, really is set up for that. Read up on the mommy track and lord, the number of women who can't find decent jobs after they've taken some time off. It would be better if family leave was extended and parents had better support. Quitting, for most women, is the end of their career.

As for your two jobs comment, you're comments are so harsh, judgmental and sexist. I highly doubt you'd say that to a father. You're very out of touch with what many women want these days. Do you tell your daughter eyes a failure at being a mom and being a cop because you think she can't do both?

Stranger, I've taught a lot of "problem" kids with a mom at home. Suggesting a mom bring at home means a better child is also laughable. It's also sexist as your putting the blame solely on the mom for "bad" kids.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Expecting women to quit so they get placed on the dead end track is a waste of talent.

I agree, but neither is expecting women to work any better. What's important it what works for each woman and her family.

I've taught a lot of "problem" kids with a mom at home. Suggesting a mom bring at home means a better child is also laughable.

I've never suggested that. There is no cookie-cutter recipe to raising kids. Some kids do fine with no mother at home, some do horrible with a mother at home.

What's important is stacking the deck as best you can to ensure better child development. If a kid is prone to getting into trouble when unsupervised, then having a mother at home is going to have better odds of raising a well-developed child. I would argue that most kids are prone to getting into trouble - as they are starting to understand the world, they test it, to see what can be done and what can't be done. Having parental supervision is more likely to keep the kids from testing the world in ways which causes problems.

It's also sexist as your putting the blame solely on the mom for "bad" kids.

Maybe you've got me confused with another poster, as that's not something I've ever done.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

That's exactly the age I started getting into lots of trouble. My two best buddies and I had no adult supervision between the end of school, and 6pm-ish

I take it you weren't a teenager in Japan, where kids tend to be busier after school, with bukatsu.... my comments are based on the Japanese model, and I agree with you that teenagers do need supervision, or at least a guiding hand. As I said, the cut off point is up for discussion, and in large part depends on the individual family.

Your suggestion that new moms just quit and go back when ready is rather laughable. Japan, nor any other country, really is set up for that.

Quite, and that's what needs to change, not shoving kids into day care and forcing women back into jobs they have only half a mind on because they're concerned about their kids.

Do you tell your daughter eyes a failure at being a mom and being a cop because you think she can't do both?

She's a wonderful Mum. She's also received commendations as a cop, so I reckon she must be pretty good at that, too. I amaze myself when I think that I raised such a well-rounded human being. She herself recognises that she cannot be a mum and a cop at the same time, and presumably the police force agrees since it allows female officers to take three year's childcare leave, ie until the third birthday of the youngest child. So far she's been at home being a Mum for four years, and has another year before the youngest is three. Then she'll be able to start back in a post that does not require overtime, night work, etc., so that the kids are still top priority. Maybe it's asking too much for private businesses to be as accommodating as public organisations, though.

Not all women want kids

That's a completely separate topic. A woman who doesn't want kids surely shouldn't have any, regardless of her marital/employment status.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Based on YOUR comments Cleo, she won't do well after going back to work. And I quote "No one can properly do two full-time jobs at once." You stated you thought JHS was "the" time a woman could go back to work. I hope you don't judge your daughter as harshly as you do other working moms.

Stranger, your experience will not be the same as others'. Yes, what is best for the kids - that sometimes means a working mother.

Both of you are constantly putting down working mothers without ever thinking that what is best (and what has to be done) is that mom works. You continue to go on and on about mothers as if fathers never exist unless to pay the bills. I get you are both of an older generation but you know what would help kids? Folks not judging g their moms if they work. Society would be better for ALL women if people would stop expecting moms to quit and stay home. If some moms want to stay home, great. If some want to work, great. A shame so many would rather judge than be supportive.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Yes, what is best for the kids - that sometimes means a working mother.

I've never claimed otherwise. If the family is struggling because of no money, and can eat properly because the mom is working, then the mom working most definitely is better than not.

And conversely, there are situations where the mother will work, and the father will stay home, and this will be good for the kids as well.

Both of you are constantly putting down working mothers

What? I've never put down working mothers. Once again, you seem to be confusing me with another poster.

You continue to go on and on about mothers as if fathers never exist unless to pay the bills.

What are you talking about? I'm as supportive of a father staying home with the children as with mothers. For that matter, I wish I could stay home with our kids. If my wife could make the same money as I do, I'd strongly consider it. This happened with a friend of mine - his wife went back to work and started making way more money than he did, so he quit his job and stayed home with the kids. I was and still am envious.

Society would be better for ALL women if people would stop expecting moms to quit and stay home.

And society would be better if people expected that women must work. Both are valid, as I said earlier, what's important is what works for each family. But what you seem to not be realizing is that many women want to stay home with the kids and don't want to work. My sister, who has a PhD, hasn't worked since her child was born (he's 11), because family was more important to her than work. I'd support her whichever way she had gone - she's a driven individual who was a career woman until she had a child. Either route would have been understandable.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

No one can properly do two full-time jobs at once.

And once the child is in kindy/elementary school, it's no longer the same full-time job, is it?

You stated you thought JHS was "the" time a woman could go back to work.

I don't think I ever put 'the' in inverted commas or emphasised it.... And you misunderstand me. Not the time a woman could go back to work (as in, she must stay at home until then), but the time she should not be penalised by society at large if she chooses to stay at home for her kids.

Both of you are constantly putting down working mothers

Again, you seem to be misunderstanding. Saying that it's good for women with small children to stay at home if they so choose is not the same as saying that women must stay at home if they have children, or that they are bad people if they go to work. 'Women should be able to choose to stay at home if they wish' is not the same as 'All women must stay at home.' As Strangerland points out, there are times when it is much better if the mother works. And society would be better if women were allowed to have a free choice, instead of being judged and looked down on, especially by people who think they are sticking up for women.

If some moms want to stay home, great. If some want to work, great.

Exactly.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Unfortunately one has to pay more for what's low in supply. Simple economics so employers should pay up.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites