Work and Lifecourse in Japan

By Samuel Coleman; Theodore F. Cook Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

Part One
CURRENTS OF
EMPLOYMENT

Is it possible for a high-technology economy to provide lifetime employment for everyone who wants it? (Let's allow that some people are unemployable, some would rather be self-employed, and some would just as soon not work at all.) Perhaps an economic genius could draft a scheme that would sustain the inertia of a universal tenure system with the adaptive flexibility that is needed for a national economy caught up in a fluid world order. Current economic philosophy, however, takes for granted that there has to be some degree of labor mobility in the system, although no one knows quite how much is needed.

Over the years since 1920 -- the period when most people now in the labor force have come of age -- Japan's economy has done well in terms of making jobs available to its ever-expanding population. Unemployment has remained at a level that in world perspective is enviably low. This means that when making lifecourse plans, an adult today has been more certain, if Japanese, of finding a paid job of some kind. (How desirable a job, is another issue.) Chances for remaining in the job indefinitely, however, do not appear to be any greater in Japan than in some other industrial nation. The durability of Japanese products may be setting a world standard, the durability of jobs is no better than elsewhere. By Solomon B. Levine's calculations presented in Chapter One, the average Japanese worker will be re-cycled through at least three or four positions in the labor force across his years of paid employment.

Do these job changes link up, one to the next, in some sort of orderly progression or meaningful sequence? In some institutions

-15-

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