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Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012

EDITORIAL

Throwaway workers

Recently Japanese workers have been quitting their jobs in larger numbers. At the end of October, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare issued statistics on the percentage of new employees who resigned within three years of being hired. The average for all industries was 28.8 percent.

That figure suggests a massive shift in the basic nature of employment in Japan.

In education-related businesses, the percentage quitting within three years of being hired was even higher, at 48.8 percent. Hotel and food and beverage services industries lost 48.5 percent of new employees within three years, and retailing, 35.8 percent.

While those job sectors perhaps always had a certain turnover, the numbers suggest that the relation between employer and employee, their attitudes toward each other, and workplace conditions have all undergone a transformation in Japan.

Nowadays, many companies recruit at universities knowing full well that a certain percentage will quit within a short time. In 2011, only 62 percent of the graduating class found jobs. That means nearly 40 percent of young people lag in getting workplace experience early in their careers.

Combined with the high numbers of workers quitting in certain industries, the general level of work experience for young employees has decreased sharply.

Japan prides itself on high-quality customer service, but to keep standards high, young people need to develop those skills. Dealing with customers and colleagues, for example, requires significant experience and supervised practice. In some companies, training has become an expense they no longer can afford, especially when an increasing number of new employees quit soon.

It wasn't long ago that many company employees had only one entry on their resume. Young people these days may have handfuls of various positions, giving them broader but not necessarily deeper experience.

The main reason for quitting and changing jobs is surely overwork. Some companies either do not pay overtime adequately or fail to provide sufficient compensation for "extras" such as commission-based sales.

The presumption of lifetime, or even long-term, employment, is no longer a realistic one for many workers, and that makes their workplace more stressful, not less. Even when workers are selfless and self-sacrificing, loyalty to an employer depends on conditions and treatment.

The practice of working employees hard and then discarding them is not a viable one in the long run. Only those companies that do manage their employees by finding ways to train and handle them over the long term will find profitability.

Establishing a humane and positive workplace environment that keeps employees is not easy, but it is an essential task if the quality of employment is to improve for both employees and employers in the future.



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