JIN-500 -- Back to the future (of the labor market)

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"シャインオン チャレンジ"の募金を募ってます。
オリンピックランナー山口マーラさんは、"シャインオン チャレンジ"の

詳しくは: www.tylershineon.org/

Tokyo Marathon Runners! We need help!
Raise funds for children with cancer and their families.
Join the Tyler Foundation's "Shine On! Challenge".
supported by Olympic Runner Mara Yamauchi.

More info: www.tylershineon.org/


J@pan Inc Newsletter
The 'JIN' J@pan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends
in Japan.
Issue No. 500 Thursday February 12, 2009, Tokyo

Seiko Noda would have to be one of the toughest politicians currently
in the Diet. The former postal rebel, now state minister, became the
youngest diet member when she entered politics in 1993. She was a
young female politician playing the older male members at their own

She's intelligent and not afraid to stand and fight. This last point
was made clear by her stance on the privatization of Japan Post. And
she hasn't given in on that front yet - in June last year she was
quoted at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan as saying "I don't
know [if there will be political confusion if the bill was stopped],
but one thing I can tell is, Mr. Koizumi is no longer dynamite."

Her more personal struggles were made public via her book "I want to
give birth," in which she detailed her experiences trying to have a
child at a late age. She has become somewhat of a champion of the
woman's struggle in the workplace.

Recently a piece in the Japan Times caught my attention. It was
nothing particularly astounding but I think that at a time like the
present when we are seeing Japan's non-permanent workers cut loose,
it's apt to talk about the future of the labor market.

This is what Noda said at the end of the piece:

"Who stole our future? We did. In Japan, a woman who wants a baby
risks losing her career. As long as this situation continues, Japan's
future is dark and childless. We must all protect our nation's
powerhouse, the children, and we as a nation should raise them and
help their parents in every way possible."

We are constantly hearing politicians imploring the younger
generations to "make more babies" for the sake of the economy. But how
are they supposed to do that when the conditions aren't conducive to
it? For starters it's expensive business. And as Noda alludes to
above, women are made to feel they have to choose between a career or

The issue is tied complexly to the economy - more young workers are
needed as the workforce becomes old and top-heavy. The greatest
untapped resource is, of course, women. But then if more women are
utilized in the workplace, it becomes more difficult for them to have
and raise children (and particularly difficult to raise a large number
of children as the current political leadership seems to want them to

But the whole "make more babies" mantra seems like such a simplistic
counter to what requires a nationwide change in attitudes. It's easy
to look at Japan's problems through Western eyes and say "It's wrong
because it's not how we do it in the West." And so the problems of
Japan's aging, largely homogeneous, largely male workforce are
sometimes seen as stemming from old-fashioned, xenophobic and sexist
attitudes. But think about it from this perspective: it was this
workforce which had been proven to work. Two decades ago when Japan
was at the height of its economic might, it would have been hard to
argue against. Maybe the Diet's old men believe in another mantra: "if
it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's worked before, they just need more
young guys. So how do we get that? We get the women to stop busying
themselves with work and start busying themselves making babies.

But the problem is that it is broke. And according to some labor
experts the solution is not so exotic and complicated: more women (and
more women in management) and more young skilled foreigners are
needed. I'm sure these suggestions would hardly be met with jaws
hitting the floor, but what may seem like a simple answer requires a
huge shift in attitudes as well as the creation of support systems to
cater for it.

Things like better workplace childcare and assurances of a job after
maternity leave would be needed. Also more thorough welfare would be
needed for situations like we saw over the last couple of months where
foreign workers were made both redundant and homeless after being
fired and then kicked out of company accommodation.

Increasing the number of foreign-born residents has already been
something that the current leadership has examined. Ten percent was
mentioned as an ideal percentage for foreign-born workers. Considering
that 13 percent of the US's population is foreign-born, it's hardly a
figure to be scoffed at.

As illustrated by the 1000s of unemployed "temporary" factory workers
seen flooding into Tokyo, we have seen the social failure of the haken
system. Japan's workforce is often characterized by lifetime
employment, but the flipside to this is that a constant supply of
temporary workers is needed to plug the gaps. Traditionally, this role
has been performed by young, unmarried women. But as things change,
better laws and guidelines need to be introduced to protect temporary
workers - workers such as those currently employed (or recently made
redundant from) the haken system. Things will change, simply because
the have to. Let's just hope the government keeps the welfare of its
greatest assets at the forefront.

Michael Condon

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Start a Company in Japan

Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar 14th of Feb, 2009

If you have been considering setting up your own company,
find out what it takes to make it successful.
Terrie Lloyd, founder of over 13 start-up companies in Japan,
will be giving an English-language seminar and Q and A on
starting up a company in Japan.
This is an ideal opportunity to find out what is involved,
and to ask specific questions that are not normally answered
in business books.
All materials are in English and are Japan-focused.

For more details:


------------------- ICA Event-Feb 19 --------------------

Speaker: Martin Hoy, Senior Manager of Sales, EIRE Systems K.K.

Title: Successful IT Outsourcing

Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/
(RSVP Required)

Date: Thursday, Feb 19, 2009
Time: 6:30 Doors open, buffet dinner included, cash bar
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members)
Open to all: The venue is The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan


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