Work and Pay in the United States and Japan

By Clair Brown; Yoshifumi Nakata et al. | Go to book overview
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Comparing Employment Systems

Since the early 1970s, Japan has led the United States and most other industrial countries in economic growth and industrial competitiveness. Not surprisingly, many U.S. observers and competitors came to regard Japanese policies and practices as best practice and worthy of emulation. Indeed, many Japanese management practices have been imported and adopted by U.S. businesses.

In the first half of the 1990s, however, these two economies experienced a reversal in fortunes and performance. As economic prosperity and growth in Japan gave way to lengthy recession and stagnation, some of the country's most distinctive labor policies were criticized and regarded in some circles as structural impediments to recovery. The reversal was so sharp that sentiment in favor of importing certain management practices from the United States gained support in Japan.

Are the management policies that once were credited widely with contributing to Japan's exceptional record of growth and prosperity now inhibiting Japanese economic performance? Can individual policy instruments be detached from their indigenous business and social contexts in one country and imported like the latest gadget by their trading partners? More generally, what lessons might each country reasonably draw from the employment systems and national economic policies of the other?

Recent experience invites a fresh look at the past. This book analyzes how large Japanese and U.S. companies manage their employment systems and how these systems are interrelated with labor market institutions and national economic performance. First, we analyze how the Japanese and U.S. employment systems work

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