Professor of Industrial Sociology
The Japan Institute of Labour
It is said that Japan's employment is lifetime-oriented. However, the increasing life expectancy of the average Japanese worker means a longer life of retirement. It is thus appropriate to say that Japanese employment is long-term rather than lifetime and a growing number of Japanese labor unions are providing their members with support services for life planning in old age. In a survey sponsored by the National Workers Welfare Council, the author sent questionnaires to 5,000 labor unions of private-sector firms nation-wide and 2,012 replies were collected between September and October in 1992 from mainly firm-locals but some corporation-based and industry wide organizations.
1. Organizing Retirees
The retirement age compulsory, called teinen, is set by Japanese firms. But actually this practice promotes second or further job opportunities for employees, Retirees, even if they are called as such by Japanese companies, do not enjoy retirement life as is enjoyed by Western equals. Seventy percent of the unions polled said retired members are re-employed that a large number of other retired members were looking for jobs.
Thirty-nine point nine percent of unions have data-base of persons having retired after long-time employment. Of 803 unions with this data-base, 48.7 percent list only those who were union members when they retired, while 49.8 percent include those who were non-union members when they left the firms. Japan's labor unions keep track of even those who have left the union, became managers and then retired managers and supervisors, i.e. they tend to consider former unionists, their family members.
2. Assistance in Preparing for Retirement
Labor unions which are carrying out by themselves a variety of support services for their members prior to teinen are quite a few.
Seven hundred and seventy-seven unions which are involved in some form or another in pre-retirement education were asked about the details of their programs. More than half have pre-retirement education programs regarding pensions and life-insurance, mental preparation, money planning and health management.
|Pension and health-insurance plan||89.7%|
|Preparations for post-retirement life||69.0|
|Knowledge about better healthy life||50.2|
|Attitude and mental preparation||48.6|
|Personal property-building and-investing||36.7|
|Legal counseling on taxes and inheritance||33.6|
|Leisure, hobbies and volunteer work||30.8|
|Information on and training for new job opportunities||29.3|
|Family life and relationships||17.6|
3. Labor Union Assistance in Job-finding
Japanese labor unions have not been active in creating job opporunities. Nor have they been playing a part in offering placement services. They consider the company to be responsible for employment. What is more, they consider it normal for members to stay with the firm on a long-term basis.
Only a few labor unions offer some kind of assistance to those wanting to find reemployment after mandatory retirement. A negligible 1,8 percent have independent programs to help union members seek new jobs successfully. A small 16.4 percent cooperate with management to give counseling to pre-retirees to find another jobs. This service, however, seems to have evolved from union calls for counseling services to be initiated by management.
4. Organization of retired people
Twenty-two point one percent of unions have independently an association of retired employees and 14.1 percent have one in joint cooperation with management. What qualifies one to join the organization? Of the 727 labor unions which have an association of retired employees independently or jointly with management, 70 percent answered they also allowed those who were non-union members when they retired to join the association. However, 40 percent of those which have an independent association replied they permitted only those who were union members when they left the company part in the organization. The average rate of participation is 70 percent for qualified retirees. This rate, it is fair to say, is extremely high.
The question of why a retiree association was not established was posed to 1,102 unions which do not have or plan to have one. The following are the major reasons cited.
|Too weak resource to support the association||36.4%|
|Not good number of retirees||29.7|
|Association of retirees, including retired union members, has created by management||16.7|
|Retirees do not want such an association||14.1|
|Would not infringe upon retirees' private life||13.9|
5. Information and Retirees' Assistance Activities
Thirty-four point two percent of unions send some form of information to retired employees. Of the 689 which provide information, 61 percent send union bulletins and 47 percent, a brochure referring to reunion gatherings.
|Invitation to Reunion parties||46.6|
|Corporate inside news||36.3|
|invitation to union-activities||35.1|
|An invitation to leisure trips, and sports clubs||29.8|
|Daily news of retirees||22.6|
Half of the unions have a program to support retirees' personal life as shown below.
|Labor union's savings and pension program||26.2%|
|mutual aid systems through association||19.1|
|Retirees' mutual aid scheme for marriages and funerals||17.9|
|aid services for savings in contact with financial institutions||11.3|
|discounts for goods and services in corabolation with private companies||2.7|
|Aid to the needy||1.1|
The popular view is that firms and unions should assist retired employees' efforts to join social welfare and community activities. But virtually no unions extend assistance for such activities.
6. Future Programs
The 1,545 unions which are currently implementing an assistance program for retirees or plan to do so in future years were asked about what they are going to provide support services for retired employees (multiple responces). As is apparent from the following, many unions want to conduct pre-retirement education, counseling for family-income planning and health education, offer a forum to promote leisure activities and to encourage retirees to participate in union activities. On the contrary, few stressed reemployment and involvement in care and social welfare activities.
|Counseling on personal life, and legal affairs, taxes and pensions||25.0|
|Giving care for health maintenance and improvement||24.5|
|leisure activities, hobbies and volunteer work||22.8|
|Opening union and company facilities||22.7|
|General information on labor market and Job-Opportunities||16.2|
|Helping finding new jobs||13.5|
|aid in hospitalization||9.6|
|Counseling and assistance to the needy||4.7|
Japanese labor unions generally have a data-base of those who one worked for the firm not only labor union members, whether they retired as union members or whether retirement came after promotion to a management post. They provide information to these retired people and continue to foster a sense of comraderie even at an advanced age. Furthermore, an increasing number of unions hold seminars to help retirees in moneyplanning in old age.
Retiree support services, such as reemployment aid, which transcends the fostering of group-feeling, however, are minimal at this time. Dealing with requests from those who are currently active is the central issue of enterprise-based labor unions, and retiree support activity is still secondary concern. Even so, it is predicted that labor union activities in this field will grow in the coming years. Exceptionally small percentage of unions replied that each individual or the sovernment is responsible for after-retirement life.
It seems general, however, for unions to require that company management should carry out retiree support services rather than for the union to do this independently. Workers themselves rarely mention that they should prepare individually for life in old age. These views of unions as well as those of workers will impede the Japanese worker's ability to set themselves free from the mentality of "company man".
Previous Page next page MENU Special Topic Title Index-Working Conditions / Human Resource Management Special Topic Title Index-Industrial Relations Special Topic Title Index-Aged Workers