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Japan's low jobless rate masks grim reality

22 Comments
By Anne BEADE

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22 Comments
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Wages or lack there of is a major problem, which is not such a problem as no one has time to shop which is a problem. Work hard, earn a pittance go home to sleep repeat. It's a sad state if affairs when a population are required to sacrifice themselves for inept governance.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Hopeless, just hopeless! In Japan with 40% on part time/contract positions and a minimum wage shockingly low, about half that of other OECD countries, there's no hope for the economy. My local chemist has had posters up, seemingly for ever, for part time staff, the wage, a totally laughable 740 yen an hour! Who's going to be motivated for that pathetic compensation??

Japan is just heading for the abyss. Who comes to Japan now to work?? I guess people like me on expat packages, English teachers who don't by definition care about money and not much else.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Absolutely nothing surprising to any of us who live here.

"Visitors are often shocked by the sheer number of workers in Japan's service sector, many with seemingly little to do."

Think what would happen tomorrow if every one of these redundant workers were let go. Imagine if the army of old guys explaining the complexities of walking along a sidewalk in front of construction sites were suddenly cut loose. A reckoning is coming. This is simply not sustainable.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I was amazed how low the IT pay has become after returning here last year. Even back in NZ, I could earn at least double the income here. Adding to that living in Okinawa, being one of the lowest income prefectures sure doesn't bode well to spending money back into the economy.

But then the move back here never was income based (Give the kids a chance to properly learn Japanese 1st hand), but it sure wouldn't be an income or career path to work in Japan, even from what I understand expat packages are no longer as sweet as they once were too.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Think what would happen tomorrow if every one of these redundant workers were let go. Imagine if the army of old guys explaining the complexities of walking along a sidewalk in front of construction sites were suddenly cut loose. A reckoning is coming. This is simply not sustainable.

There would be gangs of old men with those flashing parking wands roaming the streets randomly redirecting traffic..

3 ( +4 / -1 )

"Visitors are often shocked by the sheer number of workers in Japan's service sector, many with seemingly little to do."

Japan has nothing on China in this regards. I've been to so many restaurants in China where it seems there's one waiter/waitress per table.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Japan has nothing on China in this regards. I've been to so many restaurants in China where it seems there's one waiter/waitress per table.

Maybe they picked up the practice in Japan. The old joke about Chinese parents about to send their kids to study in Japan: Don't be influenced by all the socialism!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

G7 minimal wages are more than, what twice as here; as for G20, well who cares to look.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

In China's case they have the population to handle it - let them do it if they can operate at a profit with that level of service.

IMO Japanese wages are not bad. If you can not find a decent paying job, you're not looking hard enough, especially in a major city.

Whether or not your company will be profitable is another story.

Increasing the number of haken (temp) workers is probably a good idea - Japan is finally being forced to deal with the bad accounting practice of treating staff as tangible assets that can't be sold or reduced even if there is no more profit to sustain them or their productivity is negative.

But this is only the beginning, we'll see the gradual upward slide of prices for everything, including basic infrastructure, until eventually the whole thing collapses - then the pension schemes will be cut and income tax on young workers will go through the roof.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

As much as I complain about the closed-off, unique ways Japan does things and as many problems as they have, I don't think they're doing as bad on the income inequality front as other countries.

While Japan may limit immigrants for the wrong reasons, I think countries like the US "welcome" them for the wrong reasons. They're a solution to the cheap labor shortage that removes the guilt of pitiful wages and crap working conditions due to being immigrants. In other words, I'm not sure if immigration is a real solution. (Not that there's anything inherently wrong with it.)

That said, Japan imports as much as anyone else from countries where pitiful wages and crap working conditions are the norm, so there's that... There really needs to be a global shift in attitudes and economic practices, for example, paying more for goods and services so that the workers providing them can make a decent living. Of course, we should also do something about the wealth hoarders at the top 1%...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change. You can't build an adaptable nation without adaptable leadership, or perhaps more importantly, without an adaptable population. Change is inevitable - either manage it and thrive, or resist it and perish."

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Visitors are often shocked by the sheer number of workers in Japan's service sector, many with seemingly little to do.

you mean every road construction site with two guys working, one guy drinking tea and three guys standing talking to each other, with one older guys waiving a baton telling you to go left?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Government statistics and reality is always 2 different things.

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3.1 is the people receiving benefit while looking for work. It not the real number. I know of many family where the daughter is at home looking after grand parents. They would rather work but go onto debt trying to survive on the minimum wage. the minimum wage needs to double. then you will see people looking for work. Even imported labor will not came to Japan because they go out back ward and end up owning the labour hire company EG just like world cup workers in some middle east country.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yet another article that doesn't even mention the real problem at hand. Japan brags left and right about it low jobless rate. But zero mention of how they have one of the worst "UNDER employment" rates.

Half the country is working a part-time job. Like so many stats that are published/released in Japan, there are a lot of hidden numbers that just are not reported that tell the real story.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

MrBum June 1  06:32 pm JST As much as I complain about the closed-off, unique ways Japan does things and as many problems as they have, I don't think they're doing as bad on the income inequality front as other countries.

Past tense. Japan's income inequality has been inching upwards since the 1990s. Not as bad as the U.S., but increasing. What you had to say, however, about the two sides or immigration is spot on.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/09/16/national/social-issues/economist-questions-report-income-equality-holding-steady/#.WTBoVJLytpg

http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21643202-problem-not-super-rich-secure-v-poor

http://www.nippon.com/en/in-depth/a04201/

Robert Dykes Today  12:00 am JST Yet another article that doesn't even mention the real problem at hand. Japan brags left and right about it low jobless rate. But zero mention of how they have one of the worst "UNDER employment" rates.

Yup. I noticed that 40 years ago on my first visit. The Japanese, for example, are one of the few OEDC nations where the citizens still go to banks to do "banking." This behavior, and the amount of unnecessary labor it requires, is the equivalent of getting behind the one person in line at the grocery store who still pays with a check.

That being said, as others have mentioned, the Japanese are still miles ahead in all manner of customer service compared to North America and that almost always mean more people doing less work. You only have to compare productivity - Japan lags behind just about every other Westernized capitalist nation.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Can anyone explain me why wages don't go up? Because it's a job-seeker market, if there is such a demand for workers the logical thing would be to see these wages go up.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@jcapan June 1  04:36 pm JST

"Absolutely nothing surprising to any of us who live here.

"Visitors are often shocked by the sheer number of workers in Japan's service sector, many with seemingly little to do."

Think what would happen tomorrow if every one of these redundant workers were let go. Imagine if the army of old guys explaining the complexities of walking along a sidewalk in front of construction sites were suddenly cut loose. A reckoning is coming. This is simply not sustainable."

What would happen? The few remaining overworked staff would turn as cold as service workers in countless other countries; the sacked workers are not on the dole, draining the economy further. The pittance these workers get allow them a modicum of dignity, and 100% of their "salary" goes right back into the economy, as they can't save even a yen. The little money companies would save by cutting them out of the economy would likely be socked away in some manager's gold bag. I love the humanity of the service industry here, and would loathe to see a "bottom line" mentality take over.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

mitoguitarman, I wasn't advocating anything, merely contemplating what would happen if such steps were taken. Totally agree about service quality in Japan though it's easier to admire when you're well off, unworried about the obvious impact this has on costs. Ditto discussions over farming subsidies and the TPP--I'm happy to support the old farmers in the inaka but I can afford the horribly overpriced produce they're growing. Most increasingly struggle to do so.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kiwi in Okinawa June 1  04:36 pm JST

I was amazed how low the IT pay has become after returning here last year. Even back in NZ, I could earn at least double the income here. Adding to that living in Okinawa, being one of the lowest income prefectures sure doesn't bode well to spending money back into the economy.

But then the move back here never was income based (Give the kids a chance to properly learn Japanese 1st hand), but it sure wouldn't be an income or career path to work in Japan, even from what I understand expat packages are no longer as sweet as they once were too.

Quite exceptional for you to sacrifice for your children. Since you are in Okinawa, I suggest applying for a job at one of the US bases.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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