Wednesday, December 17, 2008

So Long Life-Time Employment

The job losses at Canon, Toyota, and Sony last week are hitting hard. The mood around here is not happy- in fact, this is the bleakest I've seen it since I arrived. Japan's economy was a bit shite from the moment I arrived, but with no inflation whatsoever and a consumer price index that fell from its height of the bubble era, people could make do.
How do they make do now?
These companies basically prop up the little towns in which they are located. Outsourcing is a huge part of their succcess- so it's not just the thousands of temp workers who have been fired, but also the small parts business which are going bankrupt. So many of the little factories in my neighbourhood are going to go belly up in the next few weeks, just because one of these companies is cutting production in our town. The snowball effect isn't going to leave anyone unscathed. There's a little family-run alcohol shop by our house, which is owned by a couple the same age as my husband and I. They had been doing quite well- they are open at odd hours which is good for a 3-shift factory system, and our neighbourhood is peppered with workers from that big factory. On Sunday the husband told me he will have to decide whether or not to close by January 15th. That's how scared they are.
Honestly, I was shocked that Sony cut thousands of full-time regular (seishain) workers. Those of us who are seishain work hours that are too long without overtime pay for the main reason that our jobs are supposed to be safe as long as the company doesn't go bankrupt. That's not the case anymore. I hope my co-workers realize it's all a big fallacy and they might as well spend time with their families now. I doubt it though.
I, too, am scared. My husband's work depends on the local economy justifying his branch's existence. He won't get fired, but if his branch closes down he will be commuting for hours a day in a car we don't own (because the trains don't run at the time he has to go to work), and I won't stand for that. I have so few precious fucking hours with him I don't want to lose any more. But what can we do? I want him to try to find other work now, but he has this stupid sinking ship mentality.
What can anyone do? Sacrifice more Ichiban noodles to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I guess.


Nate Wendt said...

The biggest customers in the company that I work for are the car companies, so we have taken a big hit financially this year. I am a contract worker and am feeling a bit nervous hearing about all the employees being laid off. The alternative is to go back to the US but the economy is not doing so hot there either. I guess we'll all be finding out in the next 6 months where things are headed.

Kurlach said...

I hear you.. I'm in the UK (Japan next year), and I work for a big automotive manufacturer. I've just barely escaped being axed, but as a contractor, I could be turfed out at any time.

Infact, I was told yesterday that there is no budget for me for next year. I don't know what any of us can do except get our heads down and work hard. But it would be nice to have something to smile about sometime, ne?

Chin up