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Employment Relations Japan Essay

Japanese culture is highly diverse as compared to the other western nations, due to their stringent localized policies and protectionist laws which are meant to protect their local businesses and populace. The culture of the Japanese is deemed as an over-achieving culture with each individual striving to become the best at their chosen work and tasks. Companies across the globe acknowledge that the industries, within which the Japanese enter, become dominated by Japanese companies within the top 3 market positions (Alexander, 2003).

The same philosophy is translated into the workforce and even before the Second World War, the Japanese were adopting practices meant to create product quality and best business practices. However, the first disparities amongst the working class and the ruling samurai elite began during the war periods and the people who worked in factories and industries realized the injustice of their working conditions during the war times (Morishima, 1982).

The sources in this paper will be books and academic journal extracts which have been stated after considerable time and effort has been involved into the validation of the statements as facts and after they have been approved by other accomplished individuals in the topic. The paper has been divided into 6 basic chapters. The first chapter discusses the development of the employment relations of Japanese businesses and workforce. The history is discussed within this portion of the paper. The second chapter identifies the various labour market parties existing in the Japanese business spheres.

The parties are divided along the lines of labor unions, employers’ associations and various state roles in maintaining employment relations. The third chapter of the paper discusses the main employment relations processes in the Japanese organizational structure and talk about topics such as collective bargaining and employee participation and degree of involvement. The next chapter looks at the current trends and future issues pertaining to the employee relations model in Japan and is purely analytical.

Finally the summary is included which will provide the concise description of the key findings and the advantages and limitations of the data sources. The bibliography will identify the various sources used in the formulation of this paper. The early organization of workers and employers As discussed earlier, the Japanese society can be divided along the lines of the merchants, traders and businessmen and the samurai class.

The two groups were responsible for conducting certain activities and this system was dominant since the pre-world war era. In the post world war era, the borders of Japan opened up considerably and the western styles of management began entering the nation. The USA played an integral role in helping in formulating the new business models for Japan as the western world became very interested in the business potential in the Asian part of the world (Tabb, 1995).

A key element to recognize regarding the organizational structures in Japan is that in japanese organizations, even to date, the vertical hierarchy is very important in the business functions and no matter how the company appears to be decentralized, the actuality lies in the fact that employees further down the hierarchy are usually expected to obtain greater responsibility rather than be able to make decisions in a more decentralized role (Tabb, 1995).

This notion of vertical hierarchy has prevailed throughout the Japanese organizational culture and played a detrimental role in the evolution of current organizational structures and employee relations models. Recognition of Trade Unions Up till the World War, the Japanese did not look favorably towards the trade unions and the Japanese culture encouraged the owners the right to do as they pleased while maintaining responsibility over their workers.

The Japanese culture is centered around the master-worker relationship with the master being responsible for watching out for the benefits of his workers while the workers would be required to fulfill their masters demands unflinchingly. The Fukuzawa and Shibusawa philosophies were particularly centered on the debate regarding this relationship and played an important role in forming organizational structures. Therefore in the pre-world war era the concept of unions was not popular in Japan.

However, following the US entry into Japan some changes began to appear in the organizational models. Trade and industrial unions began being fostered under the US supervision and the legal barriers against union formation were abolished. The communists and socialists activists were released from the prisons and this accelerated the number of unions being formed for the protection of the workers against the ruling class and by 1949, a mere 2 years since the movement began, around 34000 unions had been created with around 7 million members in totality (Pempel, 1998).

The purpose of the Japanese unions however were not industrial but seemed to be attracted towards political linkages as most unions sided with the Japanese Communist Party and the Japanese Socialist Party and these unions began using their influence towards blackmailing the government through strikes and sit-ins on a fairly regular level (Pempel, 1998). The unions are still politically inclined and unlike the US style, are fairly active in political agendas.

Role of the State in the formative period The Sanbetsu Kaigi was a major union which easily rallied workers against the government and the government found that the leftist were using the unions to pressurize the government into meeting their demands by manipulating with the country’s production levels. The government realized that it would need to take matters into its own hands as by the end of 1948, the total production was still only 65% of the level which was produced in 1930-4 (Neary, 2002).

The response to this issue came in the form of creating second unions and lock-outs on the part of organizations to decrease the reliance on the trouble-making militant groups. The second unions were more compliant and would be as large as the minimum required number of people to run the factory. The government responded by conducting a “red purge” which was aimed at removing communist factions from within unions and during the 1950s the government and SCAP (Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers) implemented policies to remove communist members from public posts and universities (Neary, 2002).

We can therefore see that the state played a directly involved role in creating the structure of the unions and unlike free market economies where the market pressures dictate formulation of such entities, the government was forming the structures itself. Diversification of Interests and Organizations The trade union movement in Japan was legally liberalized over the next 10 years following the World War.

The radical trade union movements which were steeped in leftist ideology were gradually overcome as the employers and organizations tried to maintain communication linkages with the workers and by using the intensive communication and offering humanitarian services. Trade unions in Japan are organized on the enterprise base unlike other countries where the trade unions are usually industrial or craft based (Tsujino, 1992). The enterprise based unions differ from other global unions because the members of this unions wish for the enterprise to succeed as it would result in greater salaries and better workplace atmosphere.

Unlike trade unions meant for entire industries, these enterprise based unions have a clearer vision and goal. The Japanese trade unions hence become more employee oriented and lead to greater humanitarian concerns from the organizations. Trade Unions The trade union structure within Japan lies in the manner that the most basic unit is the enterprise trade union. This trade union falls within an industrial federation which is itself affiliated with a general peak union organization (Benson & Zhu, 2008).

As of 2005 the number of unions stood at 61,178 which was a decline of 15. 3 percent from 1990. The total number of union members at the time amounted to 10,014,000 which was also a decline in the total number of members since 1990 at a declining rate of 18. 7 percent. The major national peak union federation in Japan is the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (locally known as Rengo) which constitutes 54 industrial union federations (as of 2006). Rengo itself was created in 1987 by a merger between 5 private sector peak union bodies.

The unity is sketchy in the union movement and it lacks a unifying factor. Two other major peak union bodies which have surfaced are: the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren), a militaristic and highly political-agenda union peak body and The National Trade Union Council (Zenrokyo). The total percentage of union members within these 3 bodies amounts to 75. 6% as of 2003 (Benson & Zhu, 2008). Employers’ Associations Associations which are legally recognized by the state are often referred to as Employers’ associations.

Unlike other countries, Japan has one major employers’ association which basically covers all the country’s private enterprises under its umbrella. The Japan Federation of Employers’ Associations (Nikkeiren) is the body which represents and coordinates the body dealings with labour and social issues in the state. All the employers’ associations are coordinated within this body and aims to increase cooperation between the associations. Nikkeiren is composed of 47 prefectural and 54 industrial associations and in totality covers around 30,000 corporations.

Even though the body does not negotiate on the part of its members, it does take interest in the negotiation process (International Labour Organization, 1994). The role of the state in employment relations Unlike many western countries, the state actively participates in the employment relations and dictates the actions of the organizations and companies in formulating employee relationships and the level of benefits and services to be provided to the employees of an organization.

The state keeps a role similar to a guardian as well as a supervising body for the employee relations to be maintained by an organization and the various employers’ associations and trade unions. Due to the turbulent past, the government does not leave the bodies with a free reign and supervises their actions and observes their policies vigilantly. It comes as no surprise then that the state plays a more involved role in Japanese employment relations as compared to that of the role played by Western countries such as USA and UK.

Collective Bargaining Collective bargaining has been researched frequently for the context of Japanese businesses. Empirical studies have been conducted in this regard to see the correlation of the collective bargaining technique as a tool for unions with which to deal with labor demands. The evidence proves that there are important implications in the Japanese context regarding the collective bargaining as a tool for negotiations between labor elements and the organizations (Fuess, 2001).

Collective bargaining in Japan is practiced at the enterprise level and union level rather than at the national level. Since the state simply plays a decisive role and allows the lower levels to conduct their own processes, enterprise level bargaining and shop floor mechanisms enables the unions and parties to conduct their processes in the most feasible manner (Silva, 1996). Joint consultation systems are practiced in Japan in this regard to facilitate the collective bargaining aspect and to decrease conflicts which may arise within the collective bargaining procedure.

This system has proved effective given the country’s culture and organizational structures (Silva, 1996). Employee Participation and Involvement The employees participate on an enterprise level and hence the unions and associations basically constitute a organization specific movement. The enterprises create their own policies and then commonalities are identified which can then be implemented on a wider scale across the national board to maintain some consistency and ensure no injustice is done in certain localities.

Since most associations are divided along numerous factors, such as geographical bounds and enterprise level, the nature of participants is mostly small scale. Unlike large union meetings, smaller gatherings of major players are conducted and they decide the direction for the meetings and the outcomes. Rather than a general meeting for all members to be present, Japanese system invites influential people from the associations to represent their parties and groups and to offer suggestions.

Involvement is thus lower in Japan when compared to that of trade unions in western cultures and countries such as Germany, Canada, USA and UK. Industrial disputes, strikes and mediating institutions Since the past disputes which resulted in the government to become actively involved in the settlement of trade unions concerns, the Japanese have developed policies and labour laws for the purpose of decreasing the number of strikes and conflict scenarios which may arise between employees and organizations.

Unlike the past where production level fell drastically in the 80s and 90s, the Japanese enterprise level unions have been critical in resolving employee concerns as soon as they stem up. Rather than using reactive measures such as lock-outs and firing employees, organizations have adopted preventive measures and ensure systems which would alert warning signals when employees became agitated. The situation can then be quickly resolved and the production levels and employee performance does not suffer so drastically.

Economic Integration and Recent Changes The Japanese system of managing their workforce seems stable and has over time evolved to resolve the issues which occasionally arose. The current system is suitable for the local culture and since the Japanese culture is highly collectivist, this system is efficient for handling the specific concerns which arise time and again.

The current globalization has led to a deeper interaction with western cultures which are quite different from the local Japanese culture but they have minimal effect as the Japanese culture does not become too effected by this interaction and the local system still suits the organizational structures the best. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS By looking into the Japanese Employment Relation model we have been able to see the gradual transition and development of the employees interactions with organizations and the various entities which play an important role in determining the employee relation policies and practices.

The paper has been able to draw a picture of the national situation and has analyzed the employee relations comparing it to western standards creating a better understanding of the local deviation from the western style of handling employee relations. What we have come to understand is that the trade unions are basically a political tool used by the citizenry in manipulating government decisions and this has led to a government vigil over these entities processes.

The government closely supervises the enterprises and corporations and has developed a forward integrated union system which works on the enterprise level, hence reducing the damage which may be caused by a revolt or strike by certain workers. The government has divided the entities into miniscule units for closer supervision and has actively participated in monitoring these entities. The sources shed light and support the arguments and facts stated thereby creating a solid argument regarding the employee relation model and consolidating the statements said therein.

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