What politicians say today might change radically soon afterwards. Take Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who published an article outlining his political visions in last December's monthly Bungei Shunju magazine.
In it, recalls Shukan Asahi Geino (May 23), Abe remarked, "We shall continue to put emphasis on an economy open to free competition; but rather than the type of capitalism motivated by greed, like that by which Wall Street swept over the world, there is a form market-based formula, which that places importance on reason and knows the way to true prosperity, which is most suitable for our 'land of ripe rice ears' (i.e., Japan)."
Three months later, at the fourth meeting of his "Industry Competitiveness Discussion Group" held on March 15, attendants received a stack of materials that contained this statement: "The present state of major companies is that a 'surplus of human resources' has become apparent. . . In order for the rules for dismissal in (Japan's) employment-retaining system to be changed to the worker mobility rules that are matched to the world's standard. . . including final monetary settlements, worker dismissal procedures in the labor contract laws will be clearly established."
Whoa, says the magazine -- this is about "liberalization of firing workers." So much for "market-based capitalism that emphasizing the principle of reason and seeking true prosperity in a way that befits Japan." Is calling one's compatriots "surplus" and making it easy to fire them the real face of Abenomics?
"This doesn't mean the prime minister really believes in 'ripe rice ear's style capitalism," says an influential member of the LDP. "But by taking the reins of political power, it is possible to improve the economic situation, and he has confidence that he can accomplish this. But to do that, he has to boost the economy and improve employment, and to achieve his scenario involves laying down a smokescreen in front of the opposition and the citizens."
Of the so-called "three arrows" of Abenomics, it is known that the first two have already succeeded. The bank of Japan has vowed to halt deflation, and a huge budget has been approved, sending the stock market soaring and the value of the Japanese yen diving.
The third arrow is concerned with growth strategies. The Trans-Pacific Partners (TPP) free trade agreements and other market liberalization measures may pave the way for a new economic environment, but not necessarily one full of promises for workers.
Tadashi Yanai, CEO of Fast Retailing, remarked in an interview with the Asahi Shimbun that he sought to standardize company staff wages on a global scale.
"The main point of the global economy is that Japanese workers will no longer be forced to compete on the basis of wages with people in developing countries," explains a veteran Diet member with close ties to M. Abe.
The means by which the "surplus" will be swept away is through a proposed law to enable creation of 'jun-shain,' or semi-regular staff.
The aforementioned Diet member thinks one form this will take will be the dismissal of large numbers of staff in manufacturing firms, who will flow to jobs in the service sector.
"This will lead to expanded employment," he says, "but wages will shrink. People are worried the proposed law will have the impact of a megaton-class bomb on the economy."
One way this is likely to happen is for only 20% of the workers at any given company still holding the status of "regular staff member," with the other 80% relegated to what is effectively conditions of part-time workers. Their hourly pay will fall to the equivalent of 800 yen, bringing them annual compensation of around 1 million yen.
When things drop to this level, he asks, will Japanese workers who labor for those low wage levels still be able to complete with workers from developing countries?
If the proposed law is passed, Asahi Geino feels Japan will become a dog-eat-dog society in which the wealthy reap the benefits while the middle class eventually disappears.
It's clear that the heady Abenomics on which so many have placed their hopes may be destined to be remembered as "Dame (no good) -nomics."© Japan Today