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Thread: An excellent article on the "salaryman" system

  1. #1
    (what a tasty dog) A ke bono kane kotto's Avatar
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    Thumbs up An excellent article on the "salaryman" system

    I have found this by chance by browsing the web : http://www.economist.com/business/di...ry_id=10424391

    The article is a bit long but it made sense on all the line. It is not just about the salarymen and companies, but all the lifestyle that goes with it. So it is really a social description of a typical family's life in Japan.
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    Sister Earth Goldiegirl's Avatar
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    interesting article. Thanks for posting it. The whole salaryman lifestyle was a major factor of my husbands desire to live and work in the US. When we go back to Japan he reverts to a salaryman. Work, work, work and no calls to me to say just how late he is going to be that night.
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    Fear my Niftyness MadamePapillon's Avatar
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    It shocks me that a system like that has gone on for so long without anyone protesting or calling for a reform. To expect those men to work like machines, have no personal life, barely see their familys and basically eat, sleep and live for the company...it's a wonder it hadn't broke down long before.

    For those living it it might have seemed natural and the sacrifices acceptable but from someone on the outside looking in, from what I've heard, it almost seems to border on a human rights issue. How much can you demand from your employees before it becomes unacceptable?
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    Interesting article.

    I like this part:

    "A salaryman arrives in the office at 9am and ends his working day late, often around midnight. He does not dare leave the office before his supervisor\and managers stay late to show their loyalty. Is any work going on? Rarely. But long hours remain the norm."
    I'm still reading it, though.
    Last edited by Dutch Baka; Jan 6, 2008 at 16:16. Reason: Automerged Doublepost

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    still hiding hideway's Avatar
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    Very interesting article. Definitly worth reading. Thanks.
    Chihiro, asked if she also wants him home earlier, replies gshoganaih, echoing the salarymen. But when she grows up and gets married, will she let her husband do the same? Chihiro and her friends shriek: gNo way!h

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    (what a tasty dog) A ke bono kane kotto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MadamePapillon View Post
    It shocks me that a system like that has gone on for so long without anyone protesting or calling for a reform. To expect those men to work like machines, have no personal life, barely see their familys and basically eat, sleep and live for the company...it's a wonder it hadn't broke down long before.
    Keep in mind that their (great-)grand-parents were almost "medieval" farmers. They bowed with their head to the ground when they saw a samurai, they were satisfied to work hard in the field to have eat just enough. They believed in the spirits of the forest and would have killed themselves if the emperor had asked them to do it. It's nothing comparable to Western society in the late 1800's. Even the generation that survived the war were ready to commit suicide for the emperor, or to avoid being taken prisoner by the Americans. Their life was worthless even to them. So it is no wonder that the salaryman lifestyle was an improvement. At least they had money and security. The younger generation of today can start thinking about doing what they like. Survival is not the main issue anymore.

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    One of the reasons why the salarymen became so tamed was the small salary gap between the management and them.
    I bet the salary of Mr Watanabe, president of Toyota, must be less than one million dollars.

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    Nobuta Power Dogen Z's Avatar
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    The article is pretty good but being the Economist (a staunch advocate for the war in Iraq), it is biased towards the Anglo-American capitalist system where money is the main motivator. It didn't explore, at all, how the sacrifices that were made allowed the country to go from complete devastation after the war (all major cities were suffered extensive destruction) to the world's 2nd largest economy in just 50 years. The motivator for that was not personal greed which is ultimately what Anglo-American capitalism is all about. There is something that is good and noble about being loyal to the group.

    (BTW, I'm still trying to figure out whether greed is good or bad and haven't reached a conclusion. It seems to be the best way to allocate resources efficiently. But still....)

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    (what a tasty dog) A ke bono kane kotto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ocean Dude View Post
    It didn't explore, at all, how the sacrifices that were made allowed the country to go from complete devastation after the war (all major cities were suffered extensive destruction) to the world's 2nd largest economy in just 50 years.
    I often hear that. But what was Japan's ranking before the war, or say around 1942 ? Japan was already Asia's first economy. It was richer than in the 1950's because it hadn't been destroyed yet, and never invaded in its history. Korea and Taiwan were already colonies since 1895.

    In fact, the Japanese industry was so good before Pearl Harbour that the Europeans and Americans couldn't do anything to prevent Japanese expansion in China and the Pacific. Western colonies were overtaken by the number superioriy of Japanese warships and airplanes. Only one of the world's top economy (if not already the 2nd or 3rd after the UK and USA) could defeat 4 of the West's top 6 powers (UK, France, Netherlands and USA) all by itself.

    So Japan only regained its pre-1945 status after the war. It's not a miracle. It's only natural. Germany did the same.

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    Fear my Niftyness MadamePapillon's Avatar
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    (BTW, I'm still trying to figure out whether greed is good or bad and haven't reached a conclusion. It seems to be the best way to allocate resources efficiently. But still....)
    I'd say greed is...while not exactly a fully bad thing, it shouldn't be the sole focus of any company or person.
    Efficiency is all well and good but you have to look at the human element to.

    Is it worth it to be able to afford the latest trends and gadgets if you're miserable? I'd be willing to guess most of those salarymen aren't happy with their lives despite how efficient it may be for the company.


    .....This has probably been disscussed before but what is Japans ranking among first world nations as a place to live?

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    Nobuta Power Dogen Z's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by A ke bono kane kotto View Post
    So Japan only regained its pre-1945 status after the war. It's not a miracle. It's only natural. Germany did the same.
    Economic events don't occur naturally. Even something basic as reaching the equilibrium point of supply and demand involves a lot of social factors. Building Japan from scratch after the war to the point it is now took stupendous effort and cooperation by the whole society. This is even more apparent when you consider that Japan has few natural resources of its own.

    Besides, in 1940, it was suffering from famines and material shortage. This is what helped the military to gain dominance.

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    (what a tasty dog) A ke bono kane kotto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ocean Dude View Post
    Economic events don't occur naturally. Even something basic as reaching the equilibrium point of supply and demand involves a lot of social factors. Building Japan from scratch after the war to the point it is now took stupendous effort and cooperation by the whole society.
    Yes, true. But all these social factors already existed before the war. The knowledge and formation of the people was there, so they "only" had to rebuild after the war. I find it much more impressive that they completely changed their lifestyle, socio-econmic, political and education system at the Meiji Restoration than the rebuilding of the economy after 1945.

    This is even more apparent when you consider that Japan has few natural resources of its own.
    I disagree. Japan has little resources compared to huge countries like the USA, Canada, Australia or Brazil. But its land is one of the most fertile in the world, thanks to the volcanic activity. That is why the quality of Japanese rice and green tea is so good. They say that the best green tea only comes from the Mount Fuji area. With all its mountains, Japan also has coal, iron, copper, and other minerals. Enough to sustain industrial growth. Many small European countries have nothing like that. Japan also has access to some of the richest waters for fish and seafood in the world. It has plenty of trees for wooden products and paper (both very important in Japanese furniture and arts). Honestly, I don't see why so many people keep saying that Japan is a country with few natural resources. The Netherlands, maybe. Mongolia, maybe. But Japan ?

  13. #13
    Economist in Residence lonesoullost3's Avatar
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    Interesting...

    One thing that's funny to notice is that The Economist has been publishing articles on the changing sarariiman for the past 10 years at least. And they keep saying "it's changing." Now, although change does take time, everytime they write about it they make it sound as if it's something new. Nevertheless...

    It's still interesting how Japan's sarariiman system has survived for so long considering the massive globalization that it's economy has undergone, even post-bubble economy.

    Honestly, I don't see why so many people keep saying that Japan is a country with few natural resources.
    Japan may have fertile ground, but how much of it is actually usable: not much at all (11.6% according to CIA World Factbook). The country is predominantly mountainous - not the most ideal place for farming. Oceans are great for fishing, yes, but food is only one part. Trade is what helps an economy expand and develop - and not having any land routes for trade doesn't exactly facilitate trading relationships. This is just one reason why European countries were able to develop sooner.

    The thing that makes the Japanese miracle so amazing isn't necessarily the 50yr results, but the 10 year and 15 year results. Japan redeveloped AMAZINGLY quickly for an occupied country (until the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952), and for a country whose major cities and industrial centers were literally flattened to the ground.
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    I heard an avarage salaryman spends 20,000 hours in the train.

    It was a great tourist attraction to see the salaryman reading manga, but I've come to notice fewer manga readers, but more DS or PSP players in the train.

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    AmericaFlorida TuskCracker's Avatar
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    Hasn't this issue been spoken about so much. It is breaking down and changing.

    I found the comments on "Japan's working poor", very interesting. The United States disease, but we have the overpaid CEO's many who did a lousy job.

    Is their anything new here, we haven't heard before (except below).

    Is this drinking culture good ? We are talking about excess drinking almost every night.



    Japan is one of the most egalitarian of the world's rich societies, yet it now has one of the largest shares of “working poor”—people who have jobs but can barely make ends meet. Wages have fallen by around 10% (in nominal terms) over the past decade.
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