Workplace reforms are a hot topic in Japan right now, especially given the government’s new visa system for foreign workers as an effort to tackle the country’s labor shortages. As more foreign workers join the workforce, some workplaces have begun to adapt in multiple ways, such as by changing the specific language forms required when interacting with customers.
In light of these developments, online job searching platform JapanWork conducted a survey from January 29-February 6 among its users on various Japanese workplace topics. It’s worth noting first that JapanWork has 150,000 registered users, largely from south and southeast Asian countries, with the largest concentration from the Philippines. Most of the jobs advertised on the platform are blue-collar positions such as hotel cleaning, operating the cash register at convenience stores, line work at a food factory, or assembling and packing of goods.
There were 126 respondents to the survey from 32 countries ranging in age from their teens through to their 50s. The largest demographic groups reflected were Filipino (31 percent), Nepalese (18.3 percent), Sri Lankan (10.3 percent), and Vietnamese (8.7 percent).
Furthermore, the majority of its respondents held either permanent resident status (eijusha / 36.5 percent) or long-term resident status (teijusha / 36.5 percent) in Japan, and had experience working in Japan for between 3-5 years (38.9 percent).
While the survey dealt with a mix of questions surrounding workplaces and job hunting activities in Japan, perhaps the most loaded question of them all was “What are some things that should change or be reformed in the Japanese workplace?” to which a variety of responses were recorded. Let’s take a look at them in greater detail below.
Hair and dress codes (4 percent)
Content of training sessions (4 percent)
Way of determining working shifts (6.3 percent)
Availability of translated training materials and manuals (7.1 percent)
- Workload (7.9 percent)
Overtime work is rampant within Japanese companies. While efforts have been made to change the system in light of highly publicized employee “death from overwork” (karoshi) cases, the problem persists on a systemic level. Perhaps Microsoft Japan’s experiment this past summer with a three-day weekend (which resulted in increased productivity) will further the conversations for some change. Foreign workers chimed in with their thoughts about workload on the survey as well:
“The fact that overtime remains an expectation should be changed.” (Filipino, 30s)
“There should be clearly defined working hours. I won’t do unpaid overtime.” (Argentinian, 20s)
- Work environment (14.3 percent)
The survey shared no additional comments about this entry.
- Salary increase system (15.1 percent)
Foreign workers may not understand the workplace norms and cultural expectations regarding salary raises in Japan, which are largely tied to seniority within a company. For one, it’s not very common to ask for a raise of your own accord. Foreign workers shared some of their thoughts about the pros of effecting a more transparent, skill-based system on the survey:
“The distribution of salaries is not proportionate to the corporate structure. In a large corporate structure, workers with advanced knowledge should be paid a suitable salary.” (Singaporean, 30s)
“I think productivity would increase if there were a clear salary increase system.” (Vietnamese, 30s)
- Introduction of a complete manual of job responsibilities (19.8 percent)
Due to differences between countries in terms of workplace norms, it’s hard for many foreign workers to know what to do when Japanese workers might think of something as common sense or understand it tacitly–a point that is also likely contributing to over 30 percent of Japanese managers feeling intense stress from working with foreigners. As a result, the second biggest response indicated that foreign workers would like their job expectations and responsibilities explicitly spelled out in the form of a workplace guide:
“There are times when I can’t understand all oral instructions, so I think my mistakes would decrease if I could refer to a manual that clearly laid out all duties and procedures.” (Filipino, 20s)
“I always worry whether I’m doing something the right way because there are no clear directions telling me exactly what I need to do.” (Mongolian, teens)
1. Writing of resumes/CVs (21.4 percent)
The top response echoed a common concern voiced by many Japanese workers as well. The drafting of a resume/CV (rirekisho) is time-intensive, laborious, and likely to cause a headache for anyone, but the struggle is intensified for those whose native language is not Japanese or who are unfamiliar with the formal language and kanji often used on such official documents. There has actually been an increase in the number of workplaces in Japan not requiring submission of a resume at job interviews in recent years due to these very reasons. Foreign workers summed up their resume frustrations succinctly on the survey:
“Using kanji is difficult.” (Filipino, 30s)
“I can’t understand the cramped text on there.” (Indian, 40s)
In summary, it appears that many of the requested workplace changes/reforms by foreign workers relate to more explicitly given, less context-driven systems, procedures, and instructions. To read some further voices on the topic, see this interview we conducted a while back of some foreign workers in Japan and their positive and negative experiences within a Japanese workplace.
Source: PR Times via ITmedia Inc.
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