With just over 1,000 stores covering practically every prefecture, Starbucks is a coffee powerhouse in Japan. Since opening its first store in Tokyo in 1996, the company has managed to adapt its business model to suit Japanese tastes with seasonal flavors, expanded (alcoholic) menu options and utilizing Japan’s unique architecture.
Last week, Starbucks went one step further in its Japanese expansion plan by announcing that it would promote 800 temp workers to full-time positions, which Internet commenters applauded as a move to create pressure on the Japanese market to provide better benefits to workers.
Starbucks, which currently has about 1,800 full-time employees, revealed their plan last week to promote 800 temp workers on April 1 during an interview with TV Tokyo. The move will increase numbers to 2,600 full-time employees, a more than 40% increase in headcount. The company said they will end its system of hiring so-called “permatemp” employees and instead only hire full-time workers from now on. This isn’t the first time Starbucks has taken a stand for its employees like how CEO Howard Schultz has pushed for providing health insurance for part-time workers in the U.S.
Promoting the 800 workers will give them the benefits, pay and rights of a full-time employee and will probably prevent the high worker turnover that is common in the food service industry in Japan. And Starbucks is likely betting on happier employees to create happier long-term profits. Although Starbucks will continue to hire part-time workers to work in its cafes, this change in company policy is expected to trickle down and make for better working conditions for all employees.
Most commenters were extremely ecstatic to hear the news and hoped Starbucks’ move to provide better benefits to its employees would pressure Japanese companies to do the same. Amid the usual news about falling Japanese wages and a stagnant economy, people were surprised to hear that a foreign company still has hope for the Japanese market. And some even called for a “buycott” to support Starbucks’ decision to boost benefits for its employees.
Here are some comments:
"Usually I go to Doutor, but I’m going to try Starbucks from now on."
"That’s it, my official coffee place is Starbucks now."
"This is great, but how did they only have 1,800 full-time employees before?!?"
But others wondered how optimistic they should really be feeling. One commenter wondered if focusing on benefits in the food service industry would discourage workers from looking for “better” jobs. Other less snobby commenters worried that part-time workers may be let go to pay for more expensive full-time workers. And one Twitter user thought that the April 1 promotion date seemed a little fishy and hoped it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.
It will be interesting to see if and when other coffee shops or restaurants in Japan respond to Starbucks’ push for better benefits.
Source: Jin 115
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