To preserve for future generations, I am going to simply post the comments to an article about Death by overwork on rise among Japan’s vulnerable workers ‹ Japan Today: Japan News and Discussion which shows how utterly destroyed the Japanese people are today, unable to fight back when reduced to a very noxious level of servitude and poverty so Japan can export products to America which has seen its own industrial base laid to ruin. Japan has zero excuse for high debt when it has a trade surplus. Look at this graph below to see how noxious it is in Japan:
Government debt has skyrocketed since 1993 and is higher and higher except for four years, now very high. The tax collection system has begun to collapse, not grow. Worker’s wages are down, down, down and they are being literally worked to death with required 80 hours a month overtime with zero pay for this free work! Insane indeed. Japanese corporations are filthy rich and the workers are extremely poor and live in tiny hovels with near zero free time.
The very same people who did this to Japan and the US are the people who use offshore banking to hide their wealth as we see in today’s news. Japan’s rich don’t need to dodge taxes because the government doesn’t even bother taxing them in the first place. Japan Government Takes On Its Deficit-Ridden Finances – WSJ
Mr. Abe’s strategy of emphasizing growth and increasing tax revenues, instead of focusing on spending cuts, appears to be working for now. Tax revenues have risen by about ¥10 trillion ($80 billion) overall in the past three years. Record profits at major companies and rising share prices, as well as an increase in the national sales tax last year, are all helping.
But Japan’s government debt, which is more than twice the size of the nation’s economy at ¥1 quadrillion ($10 trillion), far exceeds that of other leading industrialized nations, and Japanese leaders have long wrestled with the twin imperatives of jump-starting growth and trimming debt.
And the punitive consumer tax is what is funding things and it isn’t enough and never ever will the government tax the rich properly. Here in the US, we simply watch tax dodgers run all over the planet, many of these tax dodgers flying private jets and sailing yachts and multi-palaces are also screaming at us that global warming is going to kill us…IT IS SNOWING OUTSIDE TODAY…and they plot with each other to terrorize us all while living like kings and queens and not paying any taxes, either, while decimating our economic systems with free trade. Whew. Did I cover all bases in this sentence?
Here are the comments from Japan which are heart breaking when we consider how the Japanese people can’t get up the energy or nerve to protest.
kurisupisuAPR. 04, 2016 – 07:22AM JST
I worked for a large company here and the demands to do more for less increased-not sleeping at night and a bout of kidney stones prompted me to quit. Personally, I know somebody here that died at his desk. He left a newly married wife behind…….
ThunderbirdAPR. 04, 2016 – 07:44AM JST
the life is too short to exchange time for money, just work to have a comfortable life style for you and your family, the new 64″ plasma tv worths nothing if you are never there to watch movies with your kids.
sf2kAPR. 04, 2016 – 08:11AM JST
Japan has no legal limits on working hours
Really? No weekends either. And no time for family. So, um.. unionize yo. You have to create the rights to have them
MiceViceAPR. 04, 2016 – 08:40AM JST
Thunderbird, many of these young employees struggle to keep/get a fulltime job and make a living. They work for 240,000 yen a month, if that, and aren’t trying to buy a new plasma TV. Some employees, young or not, are single parents and work just to put food on the table.
kurisupisuAPR. 04, 2016 – 08:45AM JST
My friend just started a job in retail. Her gross pay is 18k yen a month- take home is 12k. She can’t afford a tv……
koiwaicoffeeAPR. 04, 2016 – 08:45AM JST
the life is too short to exchange time for money, just work to have a comfortable life style for you and your family, the new 64″ plasma tv worths nothing if you are never there to watch movies with your kids.
While I totally agree, this is not an option for most of Japanese. It’s a complex issue, rooted into a feudal society. They can’t just leave work early, and holidays are forbidden.
I brought once a contract with ilegal clauses to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and they did NOTHING about it. In Japan, companies have total freedom to exploit workers, and some kind of right to do so.
YukiiiAPR. 04, 2016 – 08:59AM JST
It’s a vicious cycle… Government doesn’t agree rasing salary for volnerable work in spite of staff shortage and hard job. This job is not hopeful in market and nobody want to try and continue working. Other staff must work longer and longer.
sangetsu03APR. 04, 2016 – 09:16AM JST
It is not overwork which is causing suicides, there are countries were people work more hours, and for even for less pay.
The problem is the perceived futility of work and careers in Japan nowadays. After four years of university where you are taught almost no marketable skill, you are hired immediately after graduation into whichever company will give you a full time job. Most graduates will not get a job with the company of their first choice, so they start working for a company they don’t truly want to work for, most likely doing work they don’t really want to do. And, worse yet, they can never leave.
Once you are hired by a company, and you find you don’t like it, it is not as easy as quitting and going to work for another company, no other company will want you. They will think that you are disloyal, and are likely to quit working for them as well.
And even if you are one of the fortunate few who get hired into the company you want, you have 40 years of inane drudgery to look forward to. Since promotions and raises are seniority-based, there is no hope of quick advancement, or any additional reward for hard work, or new ideas. The best worker in the department will be promoted no more quickly than than the worst worker in the department.
Your office will be in the city, you will live in a company dormitory, which will usually be a fair commute from work. When you get old enough to earn more money and get married, your commute will likely increase. Since your company is probably overstaffed by 20%, because performance is not encouraged, salaries of course be about 20% lower than they would otherwise. Since your salary is none-to-good, your life will be a struggle to make ends meet.
The combination of working at a company you don’t like, doing work you don’t like, for a mediocre salary, and with a long commute added in, and no possibility of the situation ever changing is the problem, not the amount of hours one spends at work.
wanderlustAPR. 04, 2016 – 09:22AM JST
The Labor Laws are more like guidelines, and there are many exceptions to their guidelines, such as the service industries, healthcare, media. It is quite toothless really, though it could be made to work.
Employers are supposed to submit their working policies for approval, and in cases of dispute. Smaller companies don’t . Many media/ event companies write that their staff will only work for 10 hours, including a break; but in reality, they push them to work 12-15-18 hours each day with no overtime, citing extra rehearsals, last minute requests, changes, etc.. They are usually too scared to tell their clients (the paymasters) that their staff need a break, for fear of losing the next job, so they just give them a 500 yen bento box or onigiri and bottle of tea, which their staff consume on top of rack cases, on the floor or at their desk.
DisillusionedAPR. 04, 2016 – 09:35AM JST
The labor ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
Well, what a surprise that is! NOT! They are well aware of this problem and do nothing about it, which means they support this kind of ‘bending of the rules’. They should change their name to, The slave labor ministry! They need to abolish this semi-permanent contract system and make workers either full time or part time. There was a case in the news a couple of weeks ago about a kid who took on 7/11 about unpaid overtime and he won his case. However, his name was plastered all over the news network and he will never get another job anywhere. People do not complain about these black companies for fear of losing their jobs and getting blacklisted from future employment. It is up to the slave labor ministry to police these companies and ensure they are not abusing their employees, but that will never happen because the whole democratic system in Japan is just s cover up for a right-wind fascist regime that supports the exploitation of its greatest resource, its workforce. The honourable Japanese culture of ‘bushido’ is bullshido!
sighclopsAPR. 04, 2016 – 10:31AM JST
The biggest problem is the deep-rooted mindset, going back generations. Fundamentally, Japan has changed very little since the Showa period (and even beyond that). “Blank canvases” with irrelevant uni degrees mass-hired, paid the minimum. This is post-war give-anyone-a-job-for-the-sake-of-it kinda stuff.
As there’s no mid-career market, the young staff will do whatever it takes to stay employed. This is only exarcebated as they age, where their seniority-based promototion awaits. What you get in return is an unproductive & largely dysfunctional workforce.
Then therr’s the labour union issue. An absolute joke in Japan. Unions answer to no one but the company that employs their workers, so in effect it’s “play along or else”. Where I’m from in Australia, arguably the country with the toughest labour laws in the world (amd thus highest minimum wage by a mile), if companies are found of any wrongdoing, they face the full force of the law as they’re run as independent entities, not subservient company weaklings.
So, the karoshi situation only getting worse is really no surprise to those of us who’ve had to deal with Japan Inc. over the years. People are lf no value to a company in Japan. You’re simply an exploitable & dispensable number in the system. Japan is not a modern society by any stretch of the imagination.
smithinjapanAPR. 04, 2016 – 10:45AM JST
“an advance country like japan ignore this issue, unbelievable.”
Not only do the ignore the negative elements of it, they ENCOURAGE them! Just look at Abe’s recent “solution” to the nursery school crisis — put more students in the same available nursery schools. Not hire more nursery school teachers (at least not a realistic plan to get them), not build more, just cram more kids into the already packed and neglected schools that exist. That means, of course, more overtime, and far more stress for the few teachers available. That’s but one example.
The government continues to ignore this system despite their lip-speak laws about no overtime, because the companies of Japan inc. would howl, and Japan needs to keep them happy while its children dies.
They should ask how much their 40 hour a week is worth, and then do the math.
sf2kAPR. 04, 2016 – 11:18AM JST
Drones need to unionize for better working conditions and pay. Go on strike. Force change. Changes are never given by corporations. All the benefits I receive in another country are the result of past victories over corporations. This is being whittled away here, but in Japan it seems it never even existed. How about Saturday and Sunday both 100% off? Start there. Japanese workers have earned it. 100 hours a month of mandatory unpaid overtime is criminal. It would be rather hilarious if it didn’t have so many deaths associated with it
FubenAPR. 04, 2016 – 11:31AM JST
Overtime is bad. It is a symptom of something not working correctly. Doing the saabisu zangyo dance is otherworldly stupid. I can understand how companies might enjoy having people work for free, but in the end, they are deceiving themselves. Productivity appears high, but since people are doing “work” outside the books, productivity is probably pretty low. Before coming to Japan, I always had the image of Japan as a very efficient country, with a good work force. Now I realize that they just throw more people at the problem and solve it that way. Of course yo can do a task if you have 30 people working on it.
Unfortunately it seems the Japanese are all happy with this system. They are happy going through school, being educated in a way only to serve the country’s best interest, not their own. After that daigaku, and from there straight into the soul sucking work force. Fewer young people want to go abroad, thus not being able to get fresh, outside thinking, and the Japanese mindset becomes even more closed, leading young people to believe in the one voice they hear.
DisillusionedAPR. 04, 2016 – 11:44AM JST
Unionised? I worked for a company with a Japanese worker’s union. The union was only there to tell the employees what the management wanted. Any requests made by the staff were addressed in a very apathetic fashion with no real push to get changes. However, whenever the management made a decision regarding company policy affecting the workers it was strictly enforced with the support of the union with no objections what-so-ever! It was not a worker’s union. It was a management moderating committee of apathetic yes-men! There hasn’t been a worker’s strike in Japan since the 1970’s.
hamptonAPR. 04, 2016 – 12:25PM JST
sangetsu03, man, you really do know your stuff. kowaicoffee too. The company structure is rigid almost to the point of being feudal. Tokyo Labor Standards has a law that says no one has to work more than 45 hours per week, but the country is semi-feudal, and company demands always trump Labor Standard law. If abused workers go to Labor standards, they usually win the case. But “winning” means a company gives you a small payment and you’re a goner. Other companies then won’t hire you and the awful specter of contract employment beckons. The whole country is so terrified of Japan Inc. that most kids go to a juku from the age of about 7 and the families spend the only money they have on education. This means they have nothing to spend on domestic consumption, which is part of the economic challenge the country faces. The education system only serves to perpetuate this vicious cycle. So way too many people die at their desks, end up with mental issues, jump in front of trains or just live in misery. It’s horrendous and it won’t change on any of our life times.
sf2kAPR. 04, 2016 – 12:49PM JST
ok, so a regular 40 hour work week is 160 hours a month. 100 unpaid overtime hours is like another 150 hours not paid for, at time and half for those hours, so the ratio looks to be 160/(160+150) or 51.6%. Yikes! They’re wages are really half mine at twice the workload. The only productivity “miracle” is how they convinced people to be so gullible
As more companies force people to work part time due to stress or illness maybe they’ll unionize. Something’s got to give. People of Japan have clearly given enough.
Dandy NongAPR. 04, 2016 – 01:05PM JST
here is a story of a foreigner friend who lives in japan with his jp girlfriend. his gf was working full time as a nurse, full time means 6 days and alot unpaid overtime. he changed her mind and told her to give this full time work a flick. took awhile cos the manipulation is deep manifested in jp people. its the bonus they running after …. but giving up TIME. only one thing is running out in life thats TIME. she earned as full time nurse about 400 000 before taxes a month but almost zero time for herself plus taxes where high. now she just works casual job as nurse, where night shifts are paid 35000 a day !!! she just books whenever she wanna work via agency. working 2-3 night shifts a week brings in enuff money to live and got plenty of sparetime to do what ever they want.
8-10 night shifts a month about 260000 yen after tax !!!! rent is 70000 food and bills around 100000. still 90000 left. they save every month 50000 yen for a total of 600 000 per year and spent winter time 3 month in thailand where living is very cheap.
i doubt this kinda model of life is only possible in japan and should show its possible….
and yes it was tuff for the girl to declare herself as a loser cos she doesnt have permanent job and is just casual…. but deep inside she is laughing at them all….. shes got freedom!!! no politics at work… no overtime… no nothing… she comes and works when ever she booked to days via agency.
clever isnt it!!!0
goldorakAPR. 04, 2016 – 02:02PM JST
Japanese people (and people of Japan) have to realise they are part of the problem. Workers from most advanced nations had to fight for their rights to be respected. Governments and bosses all around the world didn’t magnanimously offer their people decent pays and working hours, ppl often had to take them by force.
For a country who prides itself for its homogeneity and unity I have always been surprised by the lack of solidarity between workers. They are expiatory victims of a system they have created.
FubenAPR. 04, 2016 – 02:40PM JST
I actually think there is something to the argument of overstaffing. When looking around, there a lot of seemingly pointless jobs around (those mandatory 3 glowing light stic-waving, old boys at every construction site comes to mind), and efficiency doesn’t seem to be of any concern. My guess is that Japan is overpopulated (at least in urban areas) and it’s better to have people employed, making money (and spending it) than hanging out on the streets doing nothing all day.
The problem with this approach is that the will to innovate and try to work smarter doesn’t seem to be there at all. Top-down management rules and few people have the guts to take a fight with people higher up than them, questioning idiotic reasoning. In the end, this can’t end well. Japan seems to somehow believe in its own economic wonder of yesteryear. What many people seem to have forgotten is that it was exactly because the innovated before that they got to where they are today. Innovation is key. You can’t just run on old ideas and produce a slightly better washing machine or a little faster fax to keep going. Once in a while, you must take leaps.
Same thing goes for working. The thinking today in many ways seem to mirror that of the 60’s but without any of the benefits from back then. The mentality of “love it or leave it” that is everywhere in this country also doesn’t help, because if no one complains, change will never come. The whole menatlity feel very, very old.
frontandcentreAPR. 04, 2016 – 03:09PM JST
This time of year makes me sad. Seeing the freshman / freshwoman cannon fodder off to celebrate getting entry-level jobs on a long treadmill to ultimate disappointment (or in some cases an early death) is actually pretty depressing. So full of enthusiasm and life, only to be chewed up by Japan Inc, “for fear of something worse”.
It’s a horrible confidence trick to play on the young and optimistic – that getting into a top university, then fighting your way through more exams to get into a famous-name company will only result in you being treated like a slave with no right to life for the next 30+ years. And yet students still believe that this is somehow the best course in life.
sangetsu03APR. 04, 2016 – 03:14PM JST
But when the country is run mostly for the benefit of big business it is no surprise that even smaller ones will also push the lack of regulation and oversight to the limit.
Actually, you have things backwards here. Labor regulations in Japan are among the most elaborate in the world. The problem is that Japan’s business system is patriarchal, and based almost entirely by seniority, and almost never on performance. This protects the old men who run the companies, because in the Japanese business system, one has no authority in business until one becomes an old man.
The cost of seniority-based systems is that they are extremely inefficient. Since there is no incentive to perform, and no consequences for not performing, productivity are also low. When workers don’t perform as efficiently as they can, it takes more workers to do a given task, and each task takes longer to complete. This is how we end up with workers staying at the office until late every night. And it is also why many departments have two or more managers to do the work that a single manager in America or Europe could do.
The end result of this system is a job where one must work long hours for little pay, enjoy little time off and short vacations, and bow to the grey-haired old men, even if you are smarter, work harder, and could do a better job than they could.
MoonrakerAPR. 04, 2016 – 04:11PM JST
Yes, sangetsu03, on paper the regulations are strict and elaborate just like they are in many aspects of life in Japan. This is partly due to all the loopholes. But conveniently penalties are often tiny or non-existent or not enforced and oversight is lax or those who regulate are understaffed. In addition, the regulatory environment is often not for the sake of the presumed beneficiaries but for those who administer it or for show or so that there is always some regulation that has been transgressed should the authorities be looking for a reason to snoop or arrest or create a scene. Plus, historically, when the state and its agents were directing an industrial policy the regulations allowed some measure of bureaucratic control, but now that big business has gained much more power vis-a-vis the bureaucracy and the bureaucrats know where their retirement bread is buttered the regulations have just become guidelines. But they still sit there on the books. And from time to time someone can make use of them.
Danchan3APR. 04, 2016 – 04:49PM JST
Good comments. It’s hard for outsiders to understand what is going on when they just come by for a brief holiday, or to teach for a few years. Hence the giant “they are all so kind and polite aren’t they” perception gap. Even among native English speakers who also speak Japanese you have a lot of “cultural ambassador” useful idiots who get by selling a rosier picture to people in the first group, or people who arrived already high enough in the corporate ladder that they don’t have to deal with the really nasty shit directly.
Tokyo is a sick place. Love the food options, love the public transport (when it isn’t rush hour), but god damn there is just so much exploitation and hopelessness. To experience it directly is really enraging. To know you are being screwed but can’t really do much but plan an exit. To watch somebody you care for become really ill and seriously depressed from overwork.
Funny story. The J government funded three years of my graduate education at a J university. As a Japanese speaking ex monbusho scholar I’m now hoped to be somebody who will help contribute to relations between my country and Japan due to my better (and supposedly positive) understanding. Woops! Maybe if I’d left directly after graduation and hadn’t really seen the inside of job-hunting and corporate slavery that might have worked. Unfortunately I have, so now I’ve been “radicalized” to feel quite the opposite.
Recent experience kind of encapsulates this weird divide between what a certain type of Japanese person wants me to think, and what I actually end up thinking. I got to know a guy whose dad is a rich old fellow that likes a nice whisky. Invites me to the old bar in Tokyo Imperial Hotel. He gets a kick out of talking to a Japanese speaking foreigner who can say politely nice things about his country, I get to show off a bit as you do, and drink some nice single malt for free. But it doesn’t take long before, once they think you are “on their side” all the anti China, and Korea stuff comes out. The “comfort women” were all prostitutes. Nanjing massacre was a lie. Etc. etc. Japan was fighting a good fight for East Asian freedom. They know in the back of their heads that my partner is Chinese, but can’t actually believe that I could both have a good understanding of Japan and Japanese, and at the same time not actually be a shin-nichi-ha, on “their side”. Because they know Japan is great, and they know I know Japan, hence they know that I know Japan is great…. It’s a funny experience getting fed the cool-aid when you are not just years into indifference but even a few years deep into bitterness and anger. Oh well. Was some great whisky.
JackKasketAPR. 04, 2016 – 04:56PM JST
All those regulations are worth less than the paper they’re printed on. Take, for example, the vacation days. Sure, all companies offer everyone the same number of paid holidays a year, but 1) it’s in the employees own discretion to use them, and 2) the employee does not get reimbursed from unused holidays. Combine that with the subtle or not so subtle guilt tripping from using a paid holiday, and oh-boy…
sangetsu03APR. 04, 2016 – 05:04PM JST
Yes, sangetsu03, on paper the regulations are strict and elaborate just like they are in many aspects of life in Japan. This is partly due to all the loopholes. But conveniently penalties are often tiny or non-existent or not enforced and oversight is lax or those who regulate are understaffed. In addition, the regulatory environment is often not for the sake of the presumed beneficiaries but for those who administer it or for show or so that there is always some regulation that has been transgressed should the authorities be looking for a reason to snoop or arrest or create a scene.
That is not entirely so. Look at the case where the 5 IBM employees who were fired for not working were awarded their jobs and three years salary because the court ruled that IBM was unjustified in firing them. I was involved with the company when the firings took place, and by the standards of anywhere in the world except Japan, these 5 men were more than worthy of losing their jobs. They did no work, did not improve after repeated warnings, and additional training, and when they still refused to work, they were fired. The laws you say are not enforced or carry little penalty were quite the opposite in this case.
It is because of the myriad rules and regulations that loopholes are exploited, and why companies hire fewer and fewer full-time workers.
kohakuebisuAPR. 04, 2016 – 06:02PM JST
Nice to hear that nurses can get a better deal by working through temping agencies. However, this should not be extrapolated into the idea that anyone can get better conditions by temping and can pick and choose their hours as they wish to fit a certain lifestyle. School teachers employed on a temporary basis through agencies can find themselves being paid solely for the lessons they teach. They end up on poverty wages. Like nurses, school teachers are qualified, skilled, and in demand. Just not as in demand as nurses by the sounds. The general trend in Japan is for staff on proper contracts (seiki) to get way better conditions than temps (hiseiki), even in the public sector which should take a lead in not abusing its employees, promoting women, etc.
As for the general topic, the government is completely spineless in enforcing Labour Law. Its response is to declare more national holidays that are then summarily ignored by all of the grey and black employers out there, just as they ignore the mandated holidays or overtime pay their staff should receive. The government is also not beyond public campaigns like “Fathers of Japan! Eat dinner with your family!” which guilt out individuals and do nothing to alleviate their situations.
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