In what might be termed an unstable and maybe even depressing time for young people looking at their future careers, a survey revealed Thursday that they maintain an unenthusiastic and rather cool attitude toward employment: almost 30 percent of young respondents answered that if possible, they would prefer not to work for a company.

The Internet survey, conducted by advertising agency Dentsu Communciation Institute Inc., asked 3,000 permanently employed male and female employees aged 18 to 29 who work three days a week or more on permanent payroll, on temporary contracts or are self-employed, about their attitude toward work.

It also covered 1,200 employees in their 30s and 1,200 in their 40s to compare their mindset with that of young people.

Asked to choose the closest feelings to describe their attitude toward work, 28.7 percent of the respondents aged 18 to 29 said they would not work if they had the means not to.

In contrast, a mere 17.3 percent responded they would devote their entire working life to one employer, a work style known as “lifetime employment” that long characterized employment in postwar Japan.

“As young people are living in an uncertain era when even big companies can go bankrupt, it may be difficult for them to imagine themselves in the lifetime employment context” that used to guarantee a stable life plan for Japanese workers during the period of rapid economic growth, said Makoto Ogi of Dentsu Communication Institute who was in charge of the survey and who analyzed the results.

In contrast, Shigeyuki Jo, a careers consultant and employment expert, saw the survey result as a positive sign that many young people today were realistic enough to put more importance on acquiring skills to stand on their own two feet rather than depending too much on companies.

“After all, for many employees, work is just a way to make a living. . . . I think they were just being honest by answering so,” Jo said.

Some 69.3 percent of younger respondents said the purpose of work was for a stable income, while 25.4 percent said they wished to work for a purpose in life. Only 12.9 percent found they had fulfilled such an ideal.

Meanwhile, a mere 31.2 percent of respondents aged 18 to 29 recognized the word kigyo senshi (corporate soldier).

The term used to be a widely used buzzword describing loyal corporate workers who tirelessly worked to support Japan’s rapid economic growth, though it was used in both approving and cynical contexts. The words were known to 53.6 percent of respondents in their 40s.

Similarly, just 21.7 percent of young respondents knew another buzzword describing diligent corporate workers, moretsu shain (fiercely devoted employee). That compared to 54.4 percent of respondents in their 40s.

Ignorance of these once-prominent expressions represents a generation gap that explains the difference in work attitudes between the mature respondents, who lived through an era in which sacrificing their private time was the norm, and the young respondents, who apparently place more importance on achieving a satisfactory life-work balance, Ogi said.

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