Work and Pay in the United States and Japan

Work and Pay in the United States and Japan

Work and Pay in the United States and Japan

Work and Pay in the United States and Japan

Synopsis

In Work and Pay in the United States and Japan, authors Clair Brown, Yoshifumi Nakata, Michael Reich, and Lloyd Ulman provide an integrated and detailed analysis of the components of firm human resources systems in the US and Japan. Drawing on data obtained from fieldwork in comparable establishments in these two countries, as well as from national sources, this work examines the relationship between company practices and national economic institutions. The authors address a number of key questions about employer-employee relations. How have major Japanese manufacturing companies been able to convert the assurance of "lifetime" employment security into a source of superior employee efficiency and adaptability, when job and income security have been feared as a source of "shirking" and wage inflation in the US? How have higher economic and real wage growth rates been associated with greater equality in earned income distribution in Japan, when the incentive role of income inequality to worker effort and savings has been stressed in the US? How could Japanese emphasis on employment security in the firm be reconciled with greater price stability and lower unemployment than in the US? This work analyzes elements such as employee training and involvement programs, wage behavior as an incentive system and an alternate channel of savings, and synchronous wage determination (shunto) at work in the Japanese economy that provide for such successes. The book also explores the costs that have been associated with these Japanese accomplishments, as well as who must bear them. In particular, it examines how Japanese women compare less favorably with American women in terms of opportunities for work, pay, and promotion; the higher hours of working time for men in Japan than in the US; and the constraints on mobility for Japanese workers. It also poses the question of whether Japanese unions are weaker than their American counterparts, or just more sensible and far-sighted. Finally, this \ork examines the outlook for these distinctive Japanese institutions and practices in a period of slower growth and economic "maturity." Based on a research project carried out in both countries, the book concludes with the lessons that each country can learn much from the employment practices of the other. Work and Pay in the United States and Japan will be essential reading for students, professors, and all professionals involved with employment systems and employer-employee relations.

Excerpt

The research for this project began in 1989 when Clair Brown, Michael Reich, and David Stern joined forces at the University of California, Berkeley, to study the changes in employment systems that were occurring on the shop floor in large companies in the United States, largely in response to the highly regarded and efficient Japanese production system. After spending three years in field work in American companies, we were approached by Yoshi Nakata and his colleagues at Doshisha University, who had been engaged in studying the employment system in large Japanese companies and asked us to join them in undertaking comparative field work together. This provided the American authors, who did not know Japanese, with the unique opportunity to conduct field work and data collection in Japan. In this way, the research project expanded to become a more interesting comparative analysis.

After our first trip to Japan, we realized that a firm's employment system in either country could not be studied in isolation from national economic institutions since the two are inexorably intertwined. Once again we expanded the scope of the project by persuading our Berkeley colleague Lloyd Ulman to analyze Japanese wage-setting institutions in a comparative context.

We owe a special debt of gratitude to David Stern. His ideas and knowledge of the importance of work-based learning taught us at the start to examine how firm- based training operates in both the United States and Japan. David was an energetic organizer of many of our site visits and an insightful partner in the surveys, the field work, and the development of our conceptual framework. He was co-

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