Recently, one of the topics that we often see is “work style reform”. It seems that many companies also target PR on their own initiatives. Since last year, the government has established the Council for the Realization of Work Style Reform. What is behind this trend? One reason is low productivity due to the habit of working long hours by the Japanese people. Japan’s GDP ranks third in the world, but its GDP ranking per capita is 22. It is ranked and by no means the top group among developed countries. In addition, there have been a series of extremely unfortunate incidents involving life and health damage caused by long working hours. Moreover, because it occurred at a company that represented Japan, it was exposed to the harsh eyes of the public. Furthermore, there are various problems brought about by the increase in wage disparities due to the increase in the number of non-regular workers. Even if the company’s performance is strong, this has not led to wage increases or stimulation of consumption.
I can only speak based on my own experience, but from my experience of working for a foreign-affiliated company for more than 35 years, I believe that the key point of work style reform is to lower the mobility of the labor market, that is, the hurdle to changing jobs. Of course, as someone in the ICT industry, I think it’s important that advances in computer and network technology have made it easier to work from home and meet remotely, in the sense that we’ve acquired tools to increase work efficiency. However, we believe that the key point is that it will be easier to change jobs so that workers will be able to choose the work environment. By the way, when it comes to whether American businessmen don’t work long hours, in fact, some people work in Moretsu even more than in Japan. It’s hard to believe that the elite working in Silicon Valley or Ward Street is keenly aware of working hours and intervals. Although there is a different type of job such as legal that charges customers hourly. On the other hand, they have the opportunity to get a high salary and change jobs. If you want to work in an environment different from your current work environment, you can do it if you have the skills and the will. In addition, apart from the case of changing jobs with intention, there is always a risk of dismissal on the grounds of performance. That’s why many people value human networks. The relationship between the parent element is also quite strong, and if the boss changes jobs, there are times when a team member will follow him or her to change jobs. Like Japanese employees, even if they want to change their work environment, they exaggerate the risk of changing jobs and cling to the company they are currently working for.
What about high-paying elites and non-executive employees? I don’t work overtime except when it’s really necessary. When I worked in the U.S. for several years in the 1990s, I remember that there was hardly anyone at the office after 6 o’clock. When I stayed at the office in the U.S. because there was a possibility that I would get a call in the morning in Japan, I would often turn off the lights on the floor at the end. The mobility of the labor market, that is, the opportunity to change jobs, is not only for special elites but also for general employees. Of course, the ease of changing jobs depends on the skills and business experience you have.
Earlier this year, a “labor-management agreement” was reached regarding the upper limit of overtime work and the obligation to make efforts in the inter-working interval system. I think that it will lead to concrete support and a legal system to regulate long working hours. On the other hand, even after these regulations and systems are realized, there will be cases where the working environment does not fit the lifestyle and health situation as a matter of fact. In that case, I think it is important that you may be able to choose a different company that provides a work environment that suits you better than the company you are currently working for. It also makes sense for non-regular workers to have the opportunity to become regular employees in a highly liquid labor market. However, in Europe and the United States, even contract employees who have expired get a large amount of compensation depending on their skills, so apart from the path of becoming a regular employee, they choose a company that suits their working style. There may be a way.
I am optimistic about the direction of increased liquidity in the labor market. That does not mean lowering the hurdles for dismissing a company. Rather, the idea is to encourage companies to compete in the working environment, salaries, and evaluation systems, and to increase liquidity as competition to secure human resources increases. As the working-age population between the ages of 15 and under 65 will decline, there is a high possibility that competition to secure human resources on the part of companies will increase. Companies will be refined in this competition. Employees will also need to acquire skills that are more commonly applied in their industry or specialty, rather than skills that are only applicable within company-specific systems and customs. In that sense, employees also need to constantly update their skills and will be refined.