In the parlance of Japanese workers, a "teate" is a stipend or allowance for housing, transportation and so on, added to the base monthly wage, usually without any withholdings.
From two years ago, reports Nikkan Gendai (April 28), employees of the Iwata Seisakusho, a medium-sized manufacturer of components located in Seki City, Gifu Prefecture, have been eligible to receive 5,000 yen per month for not owning a smartphone.
It seems that the firm's 67-year-old president, Shuzo Iwata, feels that the use of such devices has caused his workers to engage in less communication with each other. After hearing the president of Shinshu University urge people to give up their smartphones, Iwata initiated the 5,000 yen per month offer to his workers.
Has it had any impact?
"About seven or eight years ago, I communicated with my workers about the disadvantages inherent in digital devices," Iwata tells the newspaper. "What's more, I bought about 20 copies of a book, 'The Collapse of the Japanese' by Kunio Yanagida -- which warned about addiction to cell phones and the internet -- and encouraged my workers to read them.
"Then about two years ago this coming July, I initiated the new system," Iwata continued. "Up to that point, some 20 workers had applied for the allowance. But only three of them had reverted to the use of the old type of "gara-kei" (cell phones that fold shut). Now we're up to 44 people, which means about half of the workers still use smartphones; but I'm convinced among the ones who do, they've reduced the time they spend using their phones."
"In the past, some workers would walk from the parking lot to the factory buildings with their faces turned down while gazing at their phones, but you don't see them doing that any more," Iwata noted with a grin.
"During their breaks, before you'd see two people seated on a bench, ignoring each other while they poked at their phones. Likewise during lunch in the dining room. That struck me as abnormal. One of the good things about a small company is that the workers can all communicate with one another, and looking at how they were not doing that and instead using their phones struck me as a bad situation.
"And now? We've got more people engaging in conversations. But as the owner of a business, what makes me happiest of all is that we've been picked up by the local media and NHK, and more of our workers have been interviewed. One was heard to comment, 'Now that we've become so famous, we've got to become a really good company -- or else.' I won't be forgetting that."
Certainly there are employees who use their personal computers and GPS car navigation systems, but in Iwata's view, "the more convenient a digital device, the more caution a person needs to take." The employee who becomes addicted to a smartphone appears to talk less to others, read fewer books, and not read the newspaper. Such a worker, it's feared, will lose the functions of his "sensor" by which importance is placed on customers' feelings. And Iwata is convinced that by weaning his staff away from digital gadgets, he helps to nurture the ability to treat customers right.
"If we can keep this going for 10 years, I'm convinced we'll absolutely widen the gap over our competitors," he says. "So I don't believe for a moment that the 5,000-yen allowance will be wasted."© Japan Today