Balancing my goals with reality and hard choices

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

After I graduate from the university, I’d like to study at national university to get a master’s degree. (I don’t know what category I choose.) It’s still up in the air as of now.

What is indispensable for going on to a school and then continue to study is money. I watched a TV program named “part-time jobs are threatening student’s lives”. Students have no choice but to work to make money for their everyday life, because the money that their parents send is decreasing year by year. According to Allison (2013), “one-third of all workers today are only irregularly employed. Holding jobs that are part-time, temporary, or contact labor, irregular workers lack job security, benefits, or decent wages.” I’ve felt that Japanese lifelong employment has collapsed, as she states. That also makes students poor. I imagine I may contribute to my support like students who the program has taken up. According to “Education at a Glance 2013 OECD Indicators”, “public expenditure on education in Japan ranks in most lowest among the member state.”

After studying at a graduate school, I’d like to get a job at an NGO in order to accumulate experiences of supporting people in hard situation. Later some years, working as a member of international institutions is my final goal.

In the case, it takes much time to hunt job at these institutions than others for way of severe employment. That means I have to work to earn my living until getting the job. Though, I doubt whether I find a sustainable job. Allison says (2013) “one-half of all young workers are ‘working poor'”. I might slide into this one.

Ideally speaking, before I turn thirty years old, I hope that I will be hired. Though there’s no guarantee. While I’m striving for the goal, my parents and grandparents could come down with a disease or divorce. In a worst-case scenario, somebody might die alone. As Allison states (2013) “All alone people die, which happens everywhere in Japan”, which is no longer other people concerns.

Taking account of these facts, I expect that I will hesitate to make a choice of working abroad or in Japan. Roughly speaking, serving at an NGO or an international institution in Japan could be possible. So that I can imagine that I will be working in Japan by any chance. It occurred to me that to start work as soon as I graduate from school. This idea might make my parents feel relieved, even though it also means giving up my goal.

From my expectation, I wouldn’t get married. I won’t want to part with my career that I will have built up. In Japanese society, women’s marriage means retiring from their work conventionally. But for family such as husband and child, probably no one knows of my death.

Thus to avoid dying alone, I hope that I will keep in touch with my friends and cousins, familiar people from now on. When think of ibasho, I consider a comfortable space where people who accept without reserve as ibasho. For me, ibasho is the place where my familiar people are.

The other day, I heard that the elementary school which my father went to may be closed within a few years due to a decrease of children. This typical reality shows example of shoushikoureika (Japan’s declining population). In the future, it will be going on more and more. I predict this phenomenon affects my future in form of maintaining living standard.

References

Allison, Anne. (2013). Precarious Japan. (pp.12) Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

NAVIGATION 2014.4.25 “part-time jobs are threatening student’s lives” from NHK online Website: http://www.nhk.or.jp/nagoya/navigation/past/

OECD (2013), Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing from OECD Web site: http://www.oecd.org/edu/eag.htm

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Can Japan Solve Pay Inequality in the Global Economy?

by Yuri Kasai

Globalization influences each country’s economy and individual salaries. The Lehman Shock of 2008, which happened with the collapse of housing bubble, affected many countries with the economic downturn and led to the global financial crisis. This accident reduced the value of currencies such as the Euro, and European countries suffered from economic recession.

Japan has had the economic downturn of manufacturing companies due to the strong yen. After the Lehman shock, the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 affected the world economy again. Many materials and parts supply companies in Eastern Japan area stopped production and Asian economies were disappointed. The exchange of countries’ production, stock and finance occurred. Because we made the global economic system, we cannot escape from the global economy and from competing with each other.

In the result of global competition, some companies have an economic downturn and reduce employment and salaries. This brings about pay inequality. The inequality of salaries in Japan will be mainly these two:

  1. contract employees v. regular employees, and
  2. women v. men.

Contract jobs in Japan are other jobs than regular employees and have the fixed period of employment, shorter time of work, and fewer responsibilities than regular employment (Takeishi, 50). Around 44.2% of contract employees choose this work style, for the reason that they can find no post of regular employment in any companies, according to the questionnaire survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in 2006 (Takeishi, 51). 45.8 % of all companies have the system to change from contract employment to regular employment. Some companies pay the same salary of graduate recruitment for the former contract employees, and others pay the salary of the former contract employees considering about the practical knowledge.

About gender, it is difficult for women to follow the same course as men to be promoted. Only women who have the potential to do good work can be promoted and many women cannot get the management job. There is a big salary gap between men and women.

According to Kenworthy, the countries who have relatively low tax burdens, should ‘allow relatively low wage at the bottom of the earnings distribution’ in order to increase the employment of private sectors. If people with zero or single-earner households at the low end of the distribution, getting a new earnings relative low will push up the income of the household. And, this will reduce income inequality among households. Japan is the country who has relatively low tax burdens compared to Norway. Kenworthy’s idea is effective for many contract employees to get a better salary than today.

Japan is a relatively low taxation country. Considered about national burden rate of taxation, Japan is 38.5% compared to Norway’s 55.4%, Denmark 67.8%, and Sweden 58.9% in 2010, according to the Japanese Ministry of Finance. However, is Kenworthy’s idea effective to Japan? I want to discuss about solution of pay inequality in the concept of Japanese social welfare and the economic situation.

How about equalizing the system of government? Given the philosophy of government, the government has the role to equalize the income and reduce the inequality. Taxation has the role to equalize the inequality of wage. Japan’s low Gini index shows that Japan cannot redistribute the income. Japan needs to reconsider the income tax system and care about national pay inequality. Reduction of minimum wage is not considered about a way to solve inequality wage in Japan and the rise of minimum wage is often considered a good way. However, if the wage increases, the number of employment will decline and unemployed people will increase. Additionally, decision of minimum wage is conducted by the local or central government, not considering the situation of employees. The minimum of wage is decided in no political way. In Japanese system, taxation is a effective way to equalize pay inequality other than decrease of minimum wage.

Secondly, considering about the recent economic situation, the government should not allow the minimum of salary down depending on the economic situation.

Japanese monetary value, Japanese stock value is lower because most of investors who are foreign investors, hesitate to invest in Japan’s stock or money and observe if Japan’s manufacture companies will recover from economy recession of the earthquake. If they can see a little evidence of recovery, they can buy Japanese stock and national debt. Before they do, the economy cannot grow and salaries cannot increase. In this reason, we have to wait for a good season to grow the economy. Or, if we cannot see any growth, with the increase of consumption tax to 8%, the government maybe take the low-price policy and companies would keep the employment at the same level. Reduction of minimum tax will not happen, in my opinion.

Pay inequality becomes a bigger problem with the global economy, although there are many ways to solve the inequality problem and it is difficult to find an effective way to each country. We have to think about how we can equalize inequality in order to make more stable domestic economy and protect people’s life because we will face the risk of widespread of economy recession from the connected world and will face more competitive global market.

References

Takeishi, Emiko. “About the Convert System From a Contract Employee To a Regular Employment” Japanese Employment Research Magazine, 573, 50-53, 2008 April. 18 Dec, 2013.

Ministry of Finance, The bar graphs of OECD countries’ national burden rate of tax, 2010, http://www.mof.go.jp/tax_policy/summary/condition/238.htm. 18 Dec, 2013.