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Workplace Issues Today: Japan’s economy is down, but employment remains the same

Information released Wednesday shows that Japan’s economy has suffered its worst contraction in nearly 50 years, and yet unemployment in the country has remained steady, and almost 4 percentage points lower than in the United States. This is largely due to government subsidies which support a long-time tradition of life-time employment. If employers have to cut costs they reduce bonuses or fire temporary workers, they do not fire regular employees. Instead they find the workers something else to do – one company planted a vegetable garden, one did paid community service, the wages partly subsidized by the government. Although this guarantees secure jobs and often improves employee-employer relations, it can also lead to falling wages, lack of full-time work, a blockade against workers from the younger generation, or an excess of non-competitive businesses still in operation. Part-time workers, with few benefits, now make up one third of Japan’s workforce.

See In Japan, secure jobs have a cost,” by Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times, May 20 2009 (JKW)

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