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The Rise of The Nomad – Why Japanese Salaryman Quit?

April 9, 2012

In the previous post ‘The Rise of The Nomad – A New Work-Life Style in Japan‘, I introduced a new type of freelancers and entrepreneurs – the nomad. The Japanese workforce (called ‘salaryman‘) are traditionally known for their loyal 60-hours workweek and for their orderly 2-hour commute in the overcrowded subway. Why are they abandoning Corporate Japan? The following three key social changes have triggered this wave.

Decline of Corporate Socialism

As Karoshi symbolizes, the Japanese workforce has been cultishly loyal to the company, which in return guaranteed their lifelong employment with an attractive benefit package and a generous retirement plan. Working 15 hours a day for 40 years will be rewarded in the end for sure.

The declining Japan economy cannot support this model anymore, leaving the loyal employees no reward of future certainty. The benefit package is cut and the retirement plan slashed. Even the company itself may not exist until their happy retirement. Not surprisingly, now they question why they should be so loyal to the company. If any future is uncertain, why can I start something I love to do now?

Faith in Material Wealth Washed Away

So as in many other countries, Japan has been employing the material wealth as a sole indicator of the social happiness for decades. The success was defined as the form of fancy clothes, cool electronics, sexy cars, nice restaurants and a big (in a relative sense) house.

The 3.11 earthquake washed them away overnight.

There is no meaning of the material wealth when your life is being threatened. What is important is not what you have, but what you do, who you are, and whom you are with. Owning a house was once seen as an asset, but now considered as a debt. As in the Zen teaching, detaching yourself from material objects will give you more flexibility.

Goodbye to Subway Pushers

The wide-area power-cut due to the N-plant shutdown posed a lot of challenges to the urban office workers. Their already long commute became much longer because of fewer trains in operation and its messed up schedule. Some people, showing their loyalty to the Corporate Japan, still tried to arrive to the office on time by leaving home a couple of hours earlier. Others were simply unable to reach the office. It became clear that all the employees working in one big office in Tokyo is a constraint for business continuity in emergency.

Since this experience, some companies have implemented the work from home option, which was not at all available in Japan. However, while the Corporate Japan is slow and reluctant to relax their work from office policy, many Japanese salarymen have realized the cost of the ridiculously tough commute. Now they question to themselves – why should I spend 4 hours every day in the inhumanly crowded train for another 30 years?

Today’s Quote

‘Risk means everything from being honest about your faith, to moving, to quitting a job that’s paying you a fortune but it’s not what’s in your heart. Risking things is one of the biggest fears we have’ by John Tesh

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 26, 2012 7:22 am

    Very interesting these changes…and positive. But as a result of hard /tragic lessons.

    • May 26, 2012 8:42 am

      I agree, Jean. I found that positive. It’s been a social norm to suppress the desire for the quality of life and to follow the rules of the corporate socialism. Now it’s changing, I think.

      • May 26, 2012 6:10 pm

        I also think that the way how you think and express yourself has been greatly influenced by living in the U.S. for a few years.

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