As previously blogged, corporate Japan is facing (for the fourth time) a hidden unemployment/underemployment problem with its middle-senior employees. This time, the view is rather than sideline them or push them out – given Japan’s labour shortage- it would be better to “revitalise” this group.
Nikkei Business magazine’s special feature on ‘the Fifties Problem’ gives some examples of what Japanese companies are doing to help this:
- Kagome (food manufacturer) – moving from a person based/competency grading system to a job based/duties class based system, rooted in the principles of 1) be at the coalface/gemba, 2) reform from the top executives down 3) be fair
- Sony – introduced Career Plus (spending 1 day a week in another role, which is publicly advertised in the company), Careerlink (a database where people can register if they would like to work in a new role), Re-Creation Fund (funding for re-training of up to Y100,000/>$1000)
- SCSK (a Sumitomo Corporation IT services company) – found that 90% of its employees chose to extend their employment into post retirement after the age of 60, once they offered a “continued employment” path from 55. From 60 they switch to a “Senior Permanent” track, with a 5 year contract, where salary is based on the job content and will be increased based on contribution, with increments for specialist expertise. They are currently looking at extending this system to 65+.
This emphasis on re-training and having expertise is indeed leading to more interest in professional learning according to Nikkei Business – and not just for the over 50s. Japan has a very low rate of the working population (25-64) attending educational institutions – only 2.4% compared to 15.8% in the UK, 14.3% in the USA, 6.7% in Germany and 4.6% in France.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, the UK’s undergraduate “theoretical” rather than applied education system is most similar to Japan. Now Japan has decided that a generalist education and career is no longer fit for the 21st century, it should be boom time for continuing professional development providers in Japan.
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