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Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Company? They Keep..

Traditionally, Japanese businesses--particularly large corporations--do not lay people off.  Japanese culture prizes loyalty--what I believe in Japanese is called, wasabi--over pure profit.  In practice, though, this means that workers who in a normal economy (America) would be laid off may instead find themselves relegated to "chasing-out" rooms (Japanese: teriyaki),  purgatorial chambers where the unproductive must while away their days reading, doing crosswords--which are really hard, 'cause, y'know, they're in Japanese--or maybe just napping, all while shamefully collecting their full unearned salaries  It all sounds. . . .

Well, frankly, it sounds awesome.  As a teacher who missed out on the opportunity to be relegated to one of New York City's infamous "Rubber Rooms"--a sort of "holding pen" where unfirable teachers facing disciplinary action would while away the days while their cases meandered through the system--I would love to be hired and not laid off by Sony or Toyota.  Do you suppose they need any feckless English teachers?

In all seriousness--well, most seriousness, anyway--this is a problematic situation: Japanese businesses claim that their inability to lay off older or less productive workers makes them unable or unwilling to hire new employees.  Unable because their personnel budgets are stretched to support unnecessary workers; unwilling because they don't want to find themselves stuck years from now with another batch of workers in need of "chasing-out."  The complaints make a certain amount of sense.  Personally, though, I hope that when these companies ultimately settle on a plan of action to address this issue, they retain some of the traditional values--loyalty, concern for the general welfare--that enabled them to thrive in the first place.

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