Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Workin' Overtime

In Japan, a major part of business culture is unpaid overtime. Japanese business culture is very different from American business culture. In Japan, upward mobility in a company is more often related to seniority than skill. A substandard employee who has been working at the company for ten years will be promoted long before an employee of exceptional skill who has only worked there for five. After graduating from high school or college, employees often stay with their first companies until they retire.

Japanese jobs can be very stressful for newcomers because they demand the most from young employees. There is a Japanese term, KarĊshi, which literally means [death from overwork]. Usually, this type of death is a direct result of overwork, stress, and unpaid overttime. The Japanese government will often award money to the families of victims. Though I'm not sure how the Japanese government diagnoses victims, statistics indicate that hundreds of employees are afflicted every year.

The Japanese Labor Standards Law states that [employees are to be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours per week and any work above that should be paid 25% more than usual rates]. Unfortunately, in many cases this law is blatantly ignored. In some nursing homes, employees worked from 50~100 hours per week. At my own school, the teachers will often stay hours after their shifts have ended. No one goes home until after the principal leaves. I know this because the principal lives right above me, in the upstairs apartment. My principal will be at work from 7am to 7pm. My vice-principal, often much later. I know this because my vice-principal is my next-door neighbor.

As a foreigner, I am not expected to adhere to these unspoken rules. I put in 30 hours a week and never stay later than I need to. This is not a part of American culture, and I doubt I would be able to perform this job if I was expected to meet the same strenuous expectations.

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