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Japan’s super tight jobs market fails to deliver egalitarian promise

By Daniel Leussink and Kantaro Komiya

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The situation described in this story is more entrenched than even the bleak picture painted. It goes all the way to the top as well. Why so many university trained salary men would rather run a food business than continue the slog.

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Japan’s super tight jobs market fails to deliver egalitarian promise

It's new capitalim


14 ( +18 / -4 )

But it adds a level of financial uncertainty that makes week-to-week living in hard Japan, an affluent nation otherwise well regarded for its egalitarianism.

Some charming nostalgia from the 80's? Japan was remarkably egalitarian, like the US in the 50's for the white middle class, up until the 90's.

The extra 100,000 yen 26-year-old Omori gets a month helps support his wife and newborn son, which would have been difficult on the 160,000 yen he takes home monthly from his main job at a moving services company.

The existence of many "full time jobs" that have this take home pay after taxes is criminal. Compare this to the 50's and 60's in the US and later in Japan.

Full time work, for those with a basic education, could pay for a house, car, a stay at home partner, education for children and other things.

This is the neo-feudal agenda of the LDP/Japan Inc. combine picked up from the neo-liberal agenda promulgated at Davos.

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Japan’s most recent jobless rate of 2.6% in July was among the lowest in 38 member nations of the Organization of Economic Cooperation Development (OECD), slightly above rates reported by Switzerland and Denmark recently.

It would be one of the highest if reported accurately.

About 38% of the 57.1 million employed workers in the world’s third-largest economy were temporary employees, government data showed, who do not enjoy the same benefits as those on permanent contracts.

Temporary employees, meaning that at any given time the actual number of unemployed is actually much higher. Also meaning in reality that it is unstable

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A government pledge to draw up a plan to increase the number of start-up firms 10-fold within the next five years may also lead to benefits – such a subsidies – for entrepreneurs choosing to work with freelancers, they said.

Meaning tax money is going to be used, and when that dries up, what is going to happen to the people who worked in these companies? Right, more unemployment!

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The government gave 100 of billions to companies free ,under the Payday Protection Act

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The rise of gig work isn’t all gloom.

When companies find a way to use automation to replace workers then they will.

How about getting your hands dirty pumping gas?

Self service at gasoline stations was unheard of when I arrived;Japanese were incredulous that I had pumped my own gas-“dangerous” they said!

And now?

Many ‘gig’ jobs will go the same way.

From filling bentos to cleaning floors, all those jobs now done by gig workers will…. disappear!

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Evidence that the "market" reforms of a few years' back have distorted the supply and demand dynamic of the labour market. If the labor market were a real market then the low joblessness would result in high wages.

The cause is Japan's weak labor unions and the government's and BOJ's policies that put the needs of greedy and rich corporations over those of struggling working people.

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Kurisupisu are you sure about your job , will be there for you

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Fortunately, I am now able to run my own small business and have no need to do anything else.

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My wife worked in a supermarket for $10 (850yen) an 

At current exchange rate (USD = 140 jpy, this 850 JPY has become …6 USD!

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Headline from Japan Today 48 hours ago:

Pretax profits at Japanese firms hit record high in April-June

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"Pretax profits at Japanese firms hit record high in April-June"

"When Riku Omori’s pay at his regular job was slashed by a third, he found temporary work delivering fried chicken and Thai food on his bike on the streets of Kawasaki..."

If the former is true, then the latter should not be.

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Omori is among a hard-to-track group of people who take up freelance work to make ends meet, often doing jobs that fall outside the scope of the labour laws that guarantee a minimum wage and social security

Why are they hard to track? Unless they are working in the underground economy, which is not what this article is about, or is it?

My understanding is that all of the jobs described are legitimate part-time jobs, which is why they have statistics on them. Unless everything is made up?

Many things in this article don't make sense. It seems like much of it is rehashed from the 90s just after the bubble burst,and was slightly updated with manipulated statistics to make things seem better than they are in reality.

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"The emergence of the freelance class poses a challenge to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida who has pledged to redistribute wealth through wage hikes, which have up until now eluded Japan despite a chronic labour shortage."

And yet, these guys keep going trying to keep Abenomics going, and are actually PROUD of it! Doesn't matter that each and every time they give bailouts and massive stimulus to big companies those companies never deliver on government "urging" for wage hikes. And that's not even taking into account the intentional devaluation in the yen which has led to massive inflation. Oh, wait... to be fair, some companies have given a wage increase that has led to an extra ¥4000 A YEAR, which I guess puts a dent in the ¥400,000 or more extra in half a year or so we're paying for things that were cheaper before, and this week they've started talking about increasing health insurance costs for people over 70, as predicted. Japan is doing EVERYTHING wrong here, and zero right. Worse still, the politicians of today are implementing plans that ensure Japan collapses in the not-so-distant future and that the middle class moves towards poverty while the rich get richer. Not only is this young man going to need to keep that second job delivering food, but he's going to need a third before long.

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My 19 y.o. son went to NYC a couple weeks ago to study abroad for a year. He just got a P/T job at a bookstore making $18 an hour, - so, taking the exchange rate into account he will be making more than I do as an English teacher who hasn't received a pay raise since 2008.

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US side gig economy is probably,bigger than Japan,lots of American work off the book and do not pay taxes,like in the landscaping business,cut 5 yards make about 200 dollars a day in unreported income

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Will never forget a conversation with a JTE in class about this very issue, the working poor. ( Minimum casual wage in my home state of Western Australia is $25 ) She says, “Yeah, but they can buy a bento at Genki for 250 yen.”

When people care enough, things will change. Until then, 38% of the population will meek out a payday to payday existence, wondering what it’s all about.

Gotta love how people wonder why the birthrate goes down, year after year. Imagine trying to raise a family on 16 man a month.

Happy days.

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Happy Labor day weekend from America

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The last time Japan was regarded for its "egalitarianism" was In the 1970s and 1980s when Japan was known as the “hundred million middle class” society.

Thanks for this breaking headline.

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I wouldn't be surprised if the government brought in regulations that resulted in companies dropping freelancers and gig work, the indirect way they hammered AirBnB. That will cut off access to flexible employment, giving the government more control over workers at the expense of millions of people who actually want to do it. Another step towards an Orwellian society.

Given the future of the economy, get a side hustle (or 2) and expand it as fast as you can, whilst your regular job pays the bills. If your company switches to a 4 day week, the week day off will be very useful. It takes time to build your own business to a point where it can support you, so start as soon as you can. Don't wait until the economy fractures and you lose your regular job.

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the neo-liberal agenda promulgated at Davos.

Hold up… wait a minute…. Something ain’t right….

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It always amuses me when someone comes along with the "jobs for everyone who wants one" line to try and defend the status quo and make Japan sound fabulous. This article makes it clear that even if there are jobs for everyone, they're not jobs that anyone would want.

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You will own nothing

and you will be happy

-4 ( +8 / -12 )

The gig economy, a race to the bottom. Explains a lot of the poverty in the UK.

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My understanding is that all of the jobs described are legitimate part-time jobs, which is why they have statistics on them. Unless everything is made up?

They are not part time jobs as are not employed by the company, you work as a freelance and do get to enjoy the benefits and legal protections of regular employment. No outgoings for the delivery services, no responsibilities. Nothing, just rake in the profits.

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Nice Bianchi. Let me know if you get tired of it

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The extra 100,000 yen 26-year-old Omori gets a month helps support his wife and newborn son, which would have been difficult on the 160,000 yen he takes home monthly from his main job at a moving services company.

There is the problem.... Doesn't make enough money to support his wife and himself so thinks adding a baby will help.

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Japan needs to at least double its minimum wage..

The first thing i learned (after trying to understand how the economy works) was that raising wages will cause inflation, prices will go up and it was something the government tried to do to solve years of stagnation and deflation on Japan's internal economy. This will not solve the problems many countries are facing due to adjustments at the global industrialization level

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(just this month I had to pay an extra 65000 yen for the Fukushima reconstruction...wtf ..)

Meaning that you were behind in your taxes for one reason or another, as no one has that amount taken out at once, or on a monthly basis either

Households are bearing the brunt of the bill, paying an extra 2.1% in income tax for 25 years through 2037. For those with annual taxable income of 10 million yen ($92,000), that equates to an extra 37,000 yen a year.

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The government gave 100 of billions to companies free ,under the Payday Protection Act

Why would anyone make a comment like this? This "act" is for the US, not Japan, and numerous people "thumbed up" the post, I am assuming, because they thought it meant about Japan.

No, the government HERE did not give 100 of billions to companies, under the Payday Protection Act, that is nonexistent here!

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In this country there is no tipping, minimum wage of 1,000 yen 

Huh? The minimum wage here is not set at 1,000 yen, it's actually UNDER 900 yen in many prefectures!

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Expecting employers to raise wages is like waiting for Santa Claus to bring you a new car.

My daughter's previous employer, my wife's employer and several more I know are trying to kick out anyone over 40 because the healthcare system charges an extra 7% on premiums once you are over 40.

Now think about that 7% surcharge on premiums is enough for companies to want to bump people.

Go to hello work, look at all the available jobs and see the conditions, look at how many say "under 40" and this is legal because they add "heavy physical work"

I saw one "Proof reader" under 40 only.

I ask the hello work staff how could a proof reading job justify age discrimination.

She looks at me reviews the job and says with a straight face " says here heavy lifting" I pointed out "duties: proof reading English instructor manuals and making corrections suggestions." How heavy are these manuals.

So when the government's own agency accepts this stuff, don't hold your breath anything will have change.

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will be making more than I do as an English teacher who hasn't received a pay raise since 2008.

Well, if you developed some marketable skills other than speaking English, you may be able to earn a respectable wage.

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Like the below or not…

If you are in Japan and haven’t put aside a pile of money then you are in the wrong country.

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Which pile? I have to know which one to take it from

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If I were Japanese and wishong to raise a family, I would flee with whatever means.

Just study abroad and never come back.

Sorry for Japan but I fail to see how even working hard young people who have studied will all make it, ie wage that increases regularly and reduced taxes for those who wish to raise a family.

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I can live in Japan quite well as a single guy. But no way could I afford having a wife and kids here.

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Well, if you developed some marketable skills other than speaking English, you may be able to earn a respectable wage.

Marketable skills LOL - all hail and serve the mighty free market!

This “you deserve what you get” meritocratic type of thinking is elitist garbage.

I literally earned 5x more in the US in advertising sales before I came here. I have “marketable skills” but what if I’d just prefer to do something I think is worthwhile and of value to society- like teach - instead of something I might be good at but don’t want to do i.e pressuring people into buying BS products and services nobody really needs?

Also ALL work is skilled work and everyone deserves a living wage. I have to work much much harder everyday as a low paid English teacher than I ever did as a successful salesman - and I’m not complaining, I’m just saying what it is. Life shouldn’t be about serving “the market”.

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Japan is a country of a 100 million in a very small space. Competition for employment would naturally lead to lower wages and or high unemployment, or both, if you left the free market to it's own devices. Government intervention has been needed over the last 20 years but why would the LDP be spurred into shaking up anything when they've held power 17 out of the past 20 years?

In a supposed democratic society it's the people that decide who leads them. The only other thing other than government that can stop Japan's slow fall into oblivion is it's people, but honestly they seem resigned to a fate that really is in their hands to change.

The term 'shoganai' is poisonous to change. Culturally Japanese people tend to put up with more than they should while Western cultures generally produce people with a greater sense entitlement. This is usually a bad thing but can also be good, as we in the west often believe we are entitled to better work conditions and pay and will fight for what we think we deserve. (The documentary 'American Factory' on Amazon Prime highlights this difference in East vs West mentality.) In my years in Japan I never saw this fight in its people.

The Japanese people need to act now while they still have a functioning middle class. From here the gap between the haves and have nots will only increase and those that do not feel empowered now will truly be powerless unless they act and gain more interest in the direction their country is headed. Build better, more powerful unions. Demand more pay from the companies you work for. Make the leaders that have failed you pay for that failure. Those with money, give opportunities to younger people. And if the opportunites don't come, create your own in Japan or overseas, where people are clamouring for Japanese products (and often 'foreign' entrepreneurs are filling the void).

Just do 'something'. Times running out to turn the ship around.

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If you are in Japan and haven’t put aside a pile of money then you are in the wrong country.

Wow, I suppose you mean this for all Japanese too! Maybe all the Japanese who are in debt up to their eyeballs or are under the poverty line, should all suddenly leave to the utopia land you are thinking about.

Please share, what country should they be in where they can put aside a pile of money?

I want to see YOU put away a pile of money raising 3 kids, putting them through private school, through university, maintain a home, pay bills, and all the rest, on a combined income of around 700 to 800 Million yen per year?

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According to the Fortune 500 ranking, the top 10 Japanese companies made over 85 billion US dollars in profit last financial year. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_Japanese_companies

The minimum wage should be higher in Japan. For some reason, people keep voting in people who are not representing their economic interests. It is only when the Japanese people make change at the ballot box and become more active political will wages go up. Stronger unions would also be effective to increase pressure on government and companies to increase minimum wages.

What I have never understood about Japan is that people have to pay social unemployment insurance. They already pay tax why do you have to pay extra just to have your basic human rights met.

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Allow me to flesh out the one liner.

My point is that the opportunities for wage growth and even the opportunity to improve income is (I think) at an historic low in Japan.

Add inflation and outsourcing to the mix and it is obvious that even factory jobs are diminishing.

You know well that there is little political will to improve Japan and the government produced crushing blow to the economy due to ‘Covid’ shows that.

As I wrote before, (quite a few times now) my strategy has been and will always be to invest outside Japan.

From real estate to high interest bearing accounts, I have largely put money into the UK.

At present, I am considering renewable investments in SE Asia.

I also have an interest in adding value to Japanese agricultural products and will be ‘hands on’ helping with that and placing product into supermarkets for direct sales.

And as for you having three kids?


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Lots of Japanese people are wanting to get the hell out of this country but doesn't have the privilege to do so.

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