HR Policy Global

S01E16 - Decoding Japan: An Employee Relations Profile

Welcome to the Wild Side, a podcast that discusses the world of modern employee relations ten minutes at a time. This is a country-specific employee relations profile for Japan. In this episode, host Alan Wild discusses the distinctive systems of doing business, working and the employment relationship, and the conduct of employee relations in Japan. Alan is the Global Affairs Director of the HR Policy Association, the leading voice in chief human resources offices today.

Japan was the world's economic miracle as a result of its post-second world war growth but over the last 30 years it has bumped along in a far less impressive way. Yet, a few of Japan’s big companies still dominate in much of the world. The country has a long history of low unemployment and very low, sometimes negative, inflation. Even with highly structured collective bargaining and over 43,000 unions Japan still struggles with a wide gender pay gap and restrictive dismissal policies. Let’s look at the key issues employee relations specialists need to understand. 

Key Takeaways: 

  • Two stories about doing business in Japan based on firsthand experience. [1:32]
  • Layers of culture underlie every business conversation in Japan. [4:23]
  • Looking at Japan’s economics through the lens of population, GDP, debt ratio, inflation, and the gender-based pay gap. [5:09] 
  • Collective bargaining in Japan is highly structured and unions target companies most able to pay. [7:04]
  • Companies in Japan treat even low membership unions with respect. [8:50]
  • How the employment relationship was developed and the impact of recent poor economic performance. [9:42]
  • The employee relations promise and the end of the salaryman. [10:44] 
  • The key issues Employee Relations Specialists need to know. [12:09]