Balancing work and private life

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

Anonymous student post

I have had a wish to have a job in the media since I was a junior high school student. This March, I worked at a CM production for a week in Tokyo as an intern in order to take a step toward my job hunting. However, after this real experience, I think it’s crucial for us to consider carefully whether the job is a “black company” or not.

A “black company” is an illegal corporation where employees are forced to work overtime or even on holiday without overtime pay. In some black companies, there is also harassment toward recruits in the work place, That is to say it constitutes the worst working environment. It’s similar to “sweatshops” (factories where employees are compelled to work for hours with low wage). However, we can see the characteristic point of “black companies” is different from others. The victims of general poor offices such as “sweatshop” are temps, whereas the ones of “black companies” are regular employees.

This word is a new Japanese term, but it has appeared not suddenly but step by step, since the change of Japanese employment form. In my opinion, the increasing number of black companies results from a recession and job shortage. In two decades after the Japanese bubble burst in 1991, many 4th year university students struggle with job hunting. Such students long for occupations and tend to consider carelessly their future office because they are panic and in a hurry. This is when “black companies” begin to make use of them. I assume the rate of job shortage would be proportional to the number of black companies. Furthermore, almost all of the recruits in black companies quit after a couple of years due to the poor working conditions. It brings an increasing number of unemployed persons and invites a vicious circle.

I insist that we should not only improve the rate of employment temporarily with temps, but make each company obey the Labor Standard Law.

The company where I worked was established in 2010 and only has 13 employees. Of course it’s not listed yet, but I wanted to see the real circumstances of the small business where new opinions or innovation are welcomed, because I had a question about not doing the labor stereotyped in the conservative big company. To be honest, my internship experience was so hard. We didn’t have to come to the office before 10 a.m., but even interns couldn’t go home until they finished all of the work (until about 10 p.m.), and I had to skip my lunch three times in the week because of the busy work. In addition, on the filming day, all of the crews shut themselves in the studio for a couple of days. It was harsh physically and mentally, still I have heard the working environment in the media world is demanding particularly, therefore I thought that the busier the job is, the more worth job I do.

However, when I calm down and reflect on the busy days after the internship, I found out that the working environment I was in is similar to the one of a black company. The work over 8 hours long, with insufficient lunch time and sleepless work for a couple of days. One of employees said, “We have no overtime pay, but we are satisfied with this circumstances because this is the job we wanna do and we are proud of contributing to the growth of this new company.” I understand we have no choice but to sacrifice our own private lives in order to start something new at a place where our opinions are listened to in meetings and reflected in the way of the company actually. However, we should also make much of the time with our family, of the time for refreshing ourselves. I think we can make our lives more rich at the same time we make the society more affluent through our work.

It’s difficult to distinguish the company which give the worth busy days to employees, from the one which only exploit them for the enterprise’s profit. In my opinion, it depends on the balance between the job and private life that the employee desires.