New Developments and Beyond
Edited by Jon C. Messenger and Naj Ghosheh
Chapter 4: Work sharing in Japan
In recent years, the debate on work sharing in Japan has become increasingly active, particularly since around 2002, when the annual average unemployment rate reached a historic high level of 5.4 per cent. In Japan, particularly from the time of the 1970s’ oil crises, it became customary for many companies to adjust the volume of employment through increasing or decreasing overtime. By maintaining a certain amount of overtime on a constant basis, dismissals were not suddenly required when business decreased and thus employment levels were maintained. At the same time, rather than recruiting large numbers of new workers when business increased, the existing workforce handled the situation through overtime to a certain extent. Over the following decades, overtime hours became the most typical method by which Japanese companies’ adjusted to changes in market demands. Adjusting the workforce to market fluctuations via overtime can be seen as a type of work sharing that is already in practice. The scale of this adjustment is quite large, and will be estimated later in this chapter.
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