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  5. Changing Circumstances for Regular Employees

2010 Vol.2
Changing Circumstances for Regular Employees


For Japanese companies, employment essentially takes a form of membership. Employment is nothing but a type of contract between a company and its workers. While in Europe and the United States newly hired workers are expected to perform predetermined types of work, in Japan the newly hired do not know the type of work in which they will be engaging. That is, the essence of being hired as a regular employee (seishain) in Japan is becoming part of an organization, which is a natural continuation of the long tradition originating from merchant shops in the Edo period.
The way of working imposed by the membership system strengthens the nature of employeesfsubordination to their company in two aspects. One is the human aspect. Due to the hierarchical relationship between the company and its employees, orders by the former are absolute. Although employees cannot be easily fired, they must follow the orders even if some orders are against their will, for instance, involving a change in work type or relocation of the workplace. In such a system, the social responsibilities that employees must bear but which are not directly related to their work, such as raising children and caring for the disabled and elderly, tend not to be taken seriously.
The second aspect is economic. The relationship between the company and its regular employees is not one in which the employees are paid to do specific tasks. As such, this is far from the idea of spending some part of their day working for a company; regular employees are required to sacrifice a major part of their life, so to speak, for theecompany communityf, which is a different type of community from the family or local community. As a result, the salary received by regular employees from their company tends to be their lifeline.
This article considers the weakening of such a membership system as inevitable due to the collapse of the seniority system, and discusses the advantages of employees causing such a phenomenon by themselves. More specifically, more diversified work styles, such as telecommuting from home, working as agshorter-hours regular employeehwho has a shorter work day or work week, and engaging in secondary jobs, should be pursued. The future of Japan requires various types of regular employees appropriate for diversified work styles.