The Danger of U.S. Business Influence on Japanese Businesses
U.S. businesses are trying to influence how the Japanese businesses operate to make them "leaner and meaner" competitors in the world market, saying repeatedly that the Japanese economy is not doing well and probably needs some form of change.
American business is, basically, trying to dictate to Japanese businesses how they should be run. Remember; all this criticism and "advice" is coming from the same country that forced Japan to open itself to the outside world for the benefit of Western businesses.
This is not just my own personal opinion, either. In the book Unmasking Japan Today: The Impact of Traditional Values on Modern Japanese Society, 1996, we find:
"American government officials have recently attempted, namely through the structural Impediments Initiative, to force Japan to truly internationalize not only its economic and business practices, but also its social structure and lifestyle."
Having businesses be successful is important, of course, but the question American businesses don't want asked is "at what cost?" Japanese businesses have a tradition of taking care of their workers. They have used a variety of techniques to do this. One of these has been "lifetime employment," where, if one is hired by a company, you are virtually guaranteed employment for the rest of your working life with that company.
At times that particular policy has hurt Japanese businesses since, sometimes, workers are kept on whether or not they are capable or willing to do their jobs. On the other hand, other practices, such as providing inexpensive company housing, have been extremely beneficial for the workers without harming the companies at the same time.
In effect, traditionally, many Japanese businesses have been like "parents" to their employees, in effect taking care of them and helping them in a variety of ways. On the other hand, U.S. businesses, in general, feel no actual concern or feelings for their workers. Our labor history has often been one of confrontation and violence. In the past few years we have seen more and more U.S. businesses lay off vast numbers of people simply to increase their profit margins with no concern whatever for the workers. We have seen business get more and more massive as merger after merger occurs. The era of the "mega-corporation" seen in some science fiction stories seems to be approaching closer and closer.
In the popular U.S. business phrase, "in the bottom line," Japanese businesses (in general) have tried to get along in a positive manner with their workers, expecting hard work but at the same time treating their employees in a decent manner.
In American businesses (in general), the workers are often treated little better than slaves in the old times. The response to complaints about very low pay and almost sweatshop-type conditions at work is usually, "if you don't like it, go somewhere else," this being said by the businesses with full knowledge that, with the bad state of the American economy, there is often "no where else" to go.
In addition, more and more American businesses have been working as hard as they can to take away as many benefits from their workers as possible. Many companies no longer even offer any form of insurance programs. Where they are offered, workers find less and less covered at an ever-increasing charge to them. The businesses excuse is always "well, insurance costs are rising," yet many other Western countries don't seem to be having the same types of supposedly severe problems with coverage as are American companies.
What is basically happening in the U.S. is that American business has, with the full approval of the national and state governments, in effect declared war on the workers. The workers are expected to owe their employers their total loyalty while employers develop a "plantation-mentally" towards their workers. Not all companies are like this in the U.S., of course, but a growing number have become this way and more are following that path every day.
Now, why is this of any importance to the future of Japan? American businesses are ignoring the fact that the entire Japanese educational system is geared towards their businesses. Students take test after test to get into the best schools possible so that they can get into the better businesses jobs and thus be "set for life" as far as work goes. This gives the Japanese student a specific goal to aim for; work hard to pass the tests, pass the tests to get a good job.
Now, let's assume that the Japanese businesses begin to follow the U.S. style more. Companies would be not be expected to show loyalty towards their workers, yet workers would be supposed to be devoted to their employers. Workers would be subject to being bounced around and laid off just as in American companies (which are, by the way, being shown to be as corrupt if not even more corrupt that the worst Japanese businesses). Company-sponsored housing would disappear. Company provided meals would disappear. Achieving decisions by consensus would disappear; instead, decisions on what to do would come from "above," often from people who have never worked a day "in the trenches", who are too busy trying to improve their own standing in the company in order to care at all what the workers have to endure to get their jobs done.
With the present clear-cut goals (and rewards) done away with the Japanese students would no longer have as much a reason to do well in school. Granted, there is still strong family support for education, but the goal of getting into a good job is a major goal; remove that and you are setting the groundwork for a breakdown in the Japanese educational system.
Considering that the Japanese educational system is one of the best in the world and that the Japanese students continue to demolish U.S. students on international tests, then I would say that anything that can damages the Japanese educational system is something that is not good and I hope that the Japanese will be very careful about giving in to U.S. business pressure.
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