I feel that Grant Piper’s July 11 letter, “Abnormal way to run a workday,” has vividly depicted a current contradiction in the Japanese labor market.
In the good old days — the culmination of Japan’s economic growth — the more that people worked, the more that they and their companies got. The idea of working long hours had already been strongly infused in society. Working overtime even without pay came to be considered common and virtuous.
During this economic growth period, a series of pathetic and terrible incidents related to poor working conditions and overtime occurred. So the central government had no choice but to enforce employees’ rights. As a result, on a textbook basis, Japanese workers’ rights appear to be among the strongest in the world.
But, nowadays, only a few big companies in Japan comply with these strict regulations. They fear crackdowns over labor-law violations. Thanks to the development of IT technology, authorities can easily substantiate overtime work without pay, or other unlawful practices, by checking log-in records on PCs.
On the other hand, small- and medium-size companies have less cause to worry about being investigated. These “black companies” exploit this status as well as young workers’ anxiety over being viewed as irresponsible if they change jobs too soon.
I think that getting more of these black companies to reduce the amount of irrational overtime work will be very difficult. But liquidating the rigidity and conservatism of Japan’s labor market could be a panacea.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.