*Serious Topic* Karoshi (過労死)
こにちは皆さん！ ダレンです よろしくお願いします！
Hello, everyone, I'm Darren. Just to share a little bit of myself, I'm a Singaporean and currently 21 years old.
I'm now working in a local bank as a contract worker and also doing a part-time degree in an Australian university. Last year during National Service "Compulsory for all man in Singapore to serve the army :emoji_frowning2: " I've studied a year of Japanese in a class and completed (probably just N5?). Its always been my dream to work and live in Japan since young therefore I'm currently working very hard to work towards it.
Okay lets us get back to our topic about Karoshi. May I seek all of your assistance who are working in Japan to discuss the condition of working environment in Japan and does Karoshi exist in only Japanese firm or even MNC (Multi-National Corporation) has such practices?
Thank you for reading this and hope to receive replies from you guys soon !
Japan has a difficult working environment, and I don't envy people who work at Japanese companies. Karoshi is probably more of a cultural problem than a business problem, and as such, change will occur slowly.
From a young age, Japanese are taught not to be "the nail that sticks out". One never questions one's parents, one's teachers, or one's boss. One does what one is told to do. Critical thought is not encouraged, things like school debate clubs are non-existent. Japanese workers are culturally-conditioned not to complain about long hours, mediocre pay, and short holidays.
Japanese companies still follow the old fashioned seniority-based promotion system, something which disappeared in other developed economies back in the 80's. In a Japanese company you are promoted depending on how long you have been with the company. Promotions are never performance-based. Japanese workers are all team players, and work for the team and the company, not to satisfy personal ambition.
The problem with seniority-based systems is that companies which use them perform poorly. If there is no encouragement for individual workers to perform, then they do not perform, and when workers don't perform, companies don't perform. This means that it takes workers longer to complete their work, which means longer hours, and more workers. Longer hours and more workers results in lower average pay, because there is only so much available to spend on labor.
Your typical Japanese worker may spend 10 to 12 hours per day in the office doing the same amount of work which could be done in 8 or 10 hours in an American or European company.
Another point is that full time workers in Japan are strongly protected by labor laws. It is virtually impossible to fire a full time worker in Japan (which is why more businesses are hiring part time workers). If you work full time for a large company, you can do as little work as you like, or no work at all. The work that is undone by lazy or useless workers ends up having to be done by other workers. Japanese companies have many more workers than companies in other countries because of this practice. In Japan it is common for a department to have two or more managers because the supposed manager cannot or will not do the work, and cannot be fired or demoted.
Besides the long hours, Japanese workers often face long commutes, anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes each way. Housing tends to be in small apartments or very small houses. But since one may spend more time at work than at home, it makes little difference. Many workers have to entertain clients after work, and on weekends, and one's life tends to revolve around one's company, as that is you spend most of your physical and mental time.
Holidays are short, vacations usually no more than 5 consecutive days. Legally you are entitled to at least 10 days of vacation per year, but no one ever takes it all at once. Many claim their vacation days, but work in the office when they are supposed to be on holiday. And in Japan you cannot cash out your vacation days like you can in America or Europe.
A few years ago the Nikkei News bought out the UK's Financial Times. Financial Times workers got between 6 and 8 weeks of vacation per year, and were terrified of losing these days after Nikkei took over. Nikkei workers received a few days of vacation each year, and were hoping that they might be able to move over to the FT and get more days off.
Foreign companies in Japan tend to follow the business models practiced in their home countries, and are much better places to work. My wife works for an American investment bank in Tokyo, and earns several times as much as a similar position in a Japanese bank would pay. She gets 5 weeks of paid vacation each year, and can use it as she likes, or get paid for it if she decides to work instead. She can come home as early or late as she pleases, she can work from home if she likes.
For myself, I would never work for a Japanese company. I own my own business in Japan. It is difficult and I work long hours, but I earn far more than any salaryman, and have much more freedom. My clients are in America, Europe, and other parts of Asia, so thankfully I don't have to deal with the Japanese business culture.
"KAROU-SHI" is not an issue of social structure but a mental issue of native Japanese. Foreign people will not be caught by "KAROU-SHI" when he can say "no" at suitable situation.
Hi, Sangetsu san,
Thank you for your reply with very detailed information for what I would like to know.
I would be finishing my university studies in probably a year time and would wish to apply for a job in Japan with my current experience in the banking industry.
However, may I enquire whether is JLPT N2 a must in order to work in Japan? even if I go into a foreign investment bank just like your wife?
If possible I would like to go to Japan and experience the life there as soon as possible therefore taking JLPT N2 will delay this dream of mine.
Thank you and hope to receive your reply !
Japanese banks tend to hire new grads from Japanese universities (a practice common with all large Japanese companies) for their Japan office staff. Few foreign workers are hired because of the necessary language skills, not to mention familiarity with business culture. And foreign workers in the financial industry can earn far more in America, Europe, or Hong Kong than they can in Japan.
A grad from a good school in Japan who lands a job at Nomura will make perhaps $35,000 in his first year, plus housing and transportation allowances. A grad from a good school in America who goes to work for JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs may earn as much as $200,000. A top-level trader in a Japanese bank will earn perhaps $150,000 or $200,000 per year, an American trader may earn millions.
The best grads which get into Japanese banks eventually jump ship and go to New York or London to work for the big boys and big money. If you are ambitious, that should be your aim. Tokyo does not much front-office work as far as foreign banks are concerned, but their back-office salaries are higher than what front-office people in Japanese banks earn.
If your heart is set on living and working in Japan, you should go ahead and begin applying at the better companies. Japanese language skills will be valuable, but English will be more so. Your resume should be in Japanese, limited to one page, and include a photo, that is the standard format here. If you are applying to a foreign company, it should include a CV and cover letter.
The economy in Japan is mature, as in not growing. The only market with good growth is the hospitality business, which is booming. Demand will only increase in the future, and I would apply to companies (be they banks, real estate and hotel developers, ad possibly casino operators) which emphasize this industry.
I have been staying in Japan for 3 years, worked in a Japanese owned company. Can't say it was bad, just I was tired of Japan and guess homesick, so I headed back to England. Apparently, I wasn't feeling good in London, so now I am in Greece. Working in constrction field. Must say for now I am happy here, love the country, the food :rheart: , and my little apartment in Athens my company rents for me. I can't predict if I'll ever get tired of Greece as I was of Japan, but I am pretty good to be here for now.
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