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Black Firms Exploit Workers
Traditionally a newly hired employee in Japan would enter an unspoken agreement where they would remain with a company for at least 3 years. The period it takes for persistence to be rewarded is reflected in an old saying that goes, “ishi no ue ni mo sannen” (“even the coldest rock will warm up after three years”).
Recently a growing numbers of young Japanese seem to no longer possessed this level of patience. In the early 1990s this spawned the term “Naritataishoku” referring to new hires who would start working at a company in the first week of April and fail to return to work after the Golden Week holiday in late April/early May. The term was a spinoff from “Narita rikon” a term applied to couples who abruptly went their separate ways upon return from their overseas honeymoon.
According to Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the worst job sectors for workers quitting within 3 years are hostelry, food and beverage businesses (51% separation rate); education and educational support (49%) and jobs in lifestyle-related or recreation fields (45%). In contrast are the percentages of workers who walk away from jobs in manufacturing (18%) mining and other raw materials (14%) and public utilities (9%).
Increasingly the media have laid the blame for this phenomenon on burakku kigyō (black businesses). These are companies where management has no desire to reward workers or where labour laws are knowingly violated. Their wages tend to be low, working hours long with unpaid overtime”.
Companies have increasingly come to fear being tarred with the “black” brush. All it takes are social media posts by a few resentful employee. For companies so labelled the repercussions can be serious. Nikkei Business found that 91% of students said they would either decline to work for a firm reputed to be “black” or their interest in joining such a firm declined. 61% said they would be disinclined to patronize the products of such companies.
Yet developments suggest the problem may only get worse: a proposed aspect of “Abenomics” would give the green light to the establishment of “special employment zones” that allow for the immediate dismissal of workers for such minor infractions as showing up late for work. Those opposed to such zones fear they would start to transform Japan into a country where it’s easy to fire workers. After an outcry, plans to relax rules on dismissal in these zones have been watered down.
And black nations?
In its cover story of Oct. 11, Shukan Kinyobi described Japan as a “black nation.” The article cited statistics that put Japan’s real individual tax rate relative to its ratio of national income at 7.2%, as opposed to 13.5% in the UK, 12.6% in Germany, 12.2% in the US and 10.2% in France. This “black tax system” it was claimed gives preferential treatment to the wealthy, particularly capital investors and physicians in private practice, who are able to avoid taxes through loopholes.
The article estimated that cutting out such loopholes so that the affluent are taxed at rates similar to their counterparts in Britain and Germany would bring in ¥10 trillion in additional revenues. So, before boosting the consumption tax Japan should look to increase taxes on the wealthy.