Traditional Japanese solutions to unemployment

In America, one of the richest countries in the world — we have not figured out how to handle unemployment. I say that the government needs to hire those who are “difficult”, undependable, or hostile. There are plenty of jobs that need to be done, and with proper management, those harder cases of unemployment could be solved. I have tried to hire many people myself for various jobs, and found that the people who are out of work normally have a personality disorder which accounts for their unemployment. Others are missing a few screws, but still can perform many work functions if monitered accordingly.

The Japanese Solution
In Japan, unemployment has typically been low — perhaps around 2%. I am not sure what it has been recently — probably higher. I am not an economist and know very little about these things in any case. But, WHY has their unemployment been so low? The answer lies deep in the roots of Japanese culture. Perhaps if you understand the Samurai tradition — the answer will lie there.

I know what you are thinking, they found unemployed people and chopped them in half using a samurai sword — NO, sorry, that is not what happened, but I like the way you think!

The Culture
Japanese companies have peculiar structures and hierarchies. Loyalty is one of the customs of Japanese employment. I think that if your father went to highschool with the company owner or hiring manager, that establishes a very sacred relationship in Japanese culture. It is partly what you know, but who you know really matters a lot too. Family connections matter tremendously and they define your social class as well in many parts of Asia!

A Pun about Samurais and working your way up or down the ladder
In any case, getting hired and staying hired are two separate things. In Japan, traditionally, it was poor form to fire someone. In many cases, people were hired for life — just like samurais were samurias until death. For the sword wielding samurais, that was not a big deal, because their mistake in becoming a samurai would be short-lived in the best of scenarios. But, what about the rest of the population?

What do you do it a worker simply (no samurai pun intended) doesn’t “cut it”. A worker who wasn’t that great would simply be demoted to a lesser work status. Of course that would bring tremendous shame to the worker’s family and would be a huge humiliation. That is why Japanese are some of the hardest workers in the world — it is about honor, being honored, and status. On the other hand, it is normal in companies for workers to start in the mail room, and work their way up the ladder. In Japan this is no exception.

A trip to Japantown
I used to love Japantown in Los Angeles. It was small, clean and interesting — which is in character for a place that is Japanese. In any case, I used to notice that the same elderly gentleman was serving noodle soup for a decade straight. He never switched his job. Such loyalty. Americans change work frequently and see to have no sense of responsibility for the long term survival of their company. I hadn’t been to Japantown since 2007, and made another visit. This time the ice-cream lady must have hit 95. I asked her if she was the same person who was working there in 2007. Based on the answer I got, she still hadn’t learned English, and had no intention of learning either. But, her ice cream was award winning — so that makes it okay. Who needs English anyway, right? This is America — you have the freedom to live your entire life here without knowing a word of English!

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