According to World Happiness Report reported by the United Nations, Japan is ranked in 54th this year and Japan dropped down from 51st last year.

The country that ranks the first in 2018 is Finland. Recently, Northern European countries like “Norway”, “Denmark”, “Finland”, “Iceland”, “Switzerland” have grown to the top of this ranking.

The United Nation interviews over the phone every year random 1000 people in the world about how many points you can mark on your present happiness out of perfect 10 points in terms of 6 evaluation items which are

  • Per capita GDP
  • Social support
  • healthy life expectancy
  • Freedom to make life choices
  • generosity
  • perceptions of corruption

Comparing the circumstances between Japan and Finland, actually the three factors, “Per capita GDP”, “healthy life expectancy”, “social support” are not very different.
Both countries’ significant gap comes from the other 3 factors which are “Freedom to make life choices”, “generosity”, “perceptions of corruption”.

Comparing the circumstances between Japan and Finland, actually the three factors, “Per capita GDP”, “healthy life expectancy”, “social support” are not very different.
Both countries’ significant gap comes from the other 3 factors which are “Freedom to make life choices”, “generosity”, “perceptions of corruption”.

The latter 3 factors, “Freedom to make life choices”, “generosity”, “perceptions of corruption” are simply the indicator of how happy you spend your life by building your satisfactory career path yourself without being interrupted by external factors. For example, “I want to change job but there are no companies to hire me so I decide not to quit present job. Actually there are a lot of things I want to do but I can’t survive my life unless I can get a job that guarantees my living. For reality, I cannot help giving up all the things I want to do.”

The difference between Finland and Japan

I want to touch on the difference between Finland and Japan to puzzle out why Japan ranked in 54th in World Happiness Report a little bit.

Finnish society

University

For example, most of universities in Finland is national universities and even though rate of employment of industry is more or less influenced by the speciality of the university, companies done ‘t care too much about which university a job finder have graduated from.

For Criterion for employment, which university students graduated from is not big deal in this society.

For example, Helsinki university and Alto university is ranked in high position in World College and university rankings. Just because you graduated from one of these universities doesn’t make you find a job easily.

On the other hand, Rovaniemi university located in northern part of Finland is almost outside the ranking but it is not unfairly difficult to find a job domestically.

In some cases, depending on the seasons, rate of employment in Rovaniemi university is higher than the other two top ranked universities. This is an evident that companies don’t choose applicants from the name of a university that applicants graduated from.

Finnish universities have no fixed graduation season. All the students don’t graduate in the same season. If a student finishes thesis, a university confers an academic degree to a student and finally graduates from a university.

Conversely, if a student wants even more to pursue research field to finish it up perfectly, a student can stay in a university longer.

So the season that students get a job is really different individually.

In Finland, there is clear dividing line between studying and working. So a university is even where educate students to cultivate their specialized skills, but is not a vocational school for students to get a job. In this sense, Finland has prepare good environment for students to concentrate exclusively on their studies.

Getting a job

In Finland, there is no such a employment system of simultaneous recruiting of new graduates, which is Japanese unique employment system to hire new graduates in a lump. There is also no seniority-wage system and life time employment. I shall reserve the explanation for these Japanese unique employment systems to the paragraph of “Japanese society”.

Finish companies adopt year-round recruitment. Finish people’s view of recruitment is pretty simple. “Getting a job”, “Changing a job”, “Quitting a job”. For them, these are neither more or less “ just a reality”. They don’t have any barren thoughts or interpretation on these realities.

  • Japanese people think person quitting job within 3 years is unskillful, unbearable person who easily get out of inconvenient situation.
  • Japanese companies are pretty much exclusive to a person who don’t have any experience in the industry.
  • Japanese people really believe that quitting job is on the way to dying by the roadside or becoming misery needy.

Japanese people’s view of working is always bound by strong anacaestia. So the stereotype limits people’s scope of actions.

For that reason, Finnishes don’t have such a conception in their minds that people who enter a big enterprise or the governmental organization are the winners in a sense that you can get a stable life style unless you quit.

Of course, there are also a lot of Finnishes who hope to work for those organizations. But their fundamental thoughts are not like people working for a big organization are winners but like people prioritize what they want to do and what kind of job makes them enjoy more than what kind of company they belong to.

People in Finland are not on beaten path that most of people think is correct to take and follow social standard that requires them to take.

In the first place, I think no beaten path exists in Finland but there is just a thought that you live as you think. So diversity of various life plans are accepted and respected in a society. Nobody looks down on people who are off beaten path so various career path can be built individually.

Although you start working if you feel like something is wrong, you can enter university again to major in another field and if you want to create your own future for yourself, there is a choice to start up your own business from scratch. After graduation from university, if you want to broaden your mind by traveling around the world before getting a job, you can grab your backpack right away. Nobody stops you from creating your own life by yourself.

These social atmosphere that respect people’s life decision pushes the score of 3 factors “Freedom to make life choices”, “generosity”, “perceptions of corruption”.

Working style

Depending on the job, Finnish people will change their job one after another after they work for a company for a couple of years and they don’t have any thoughts to devote themselves to one company for so long until they get as old as retired.

Their reason for changing jobs are really various kinds. Some people wants to build a new career path in another industry just for their challenge or other may want to build the second career in the same industry to make themselves master of their business or there might be some people who want to study again in university.

When changing a job, Finnish people make full use of personal connection like colleagues, friends and family to have them introduced jobs casually.

In addition, when you take advantage of in-house recruitment system of a company, you just make your friend introduce you to his/her boss like “I have a friend to introduce you, who is perfect for this position.” Employment is accepted in casual opportunity. So as is often the case in Finland, husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend and childhood friends work for the same company.

Although no public recruitment is externally published, employment is decided by in-house recruitment and introduction by workers.

In Finland, working hours a day is fixed as 8 hours and regulated to have 4 weeks holiday in summer season and 1 week holiday in winter season by the labor standard law. Working time is really flexible. You can come to an office at from 7 to 9 and leave an office at from 15 to 17.

Finish people’s day starts from the early morning. Commuter rush time zone is between half past 6 a.m and 8 a.m . Return rush peak time zone is between 3 p.m and half past 4 p.m. Most of them concentrate on their tasks in the morning time and after 1 p.m, they gradually finish up their tasks that need to be done on the day.

After they finish their work, people want to go back home as soon as possible. Even easygoing Finnish rushes away from the office.

Pastime is important time for them to spend with their families and friends or to enjoy some sports and hobbies. Except for business trip, Finnish people repeat the same life routine every day and they are free from working overtime.

Days before and after vacation, people talk about nothing but the enjoyment of how they spend vacation.

Japanese society

University

There are a lot of criticizes in Japan that Japanese university is just a vocational school. Japanese student mostly expect to learn how to survive in a society after graduation in university or college. Sometimes, I hear dissatisfaction of students who think university or college doesn’t instruct how to get on in a competitive society.

Students go on to university not because they have something to study but because they spend their student lives as preparation for being hired by a nice company.

There so many universities that echo this tendency. In a private university’s campus tour, counselors advisedly emphasize employment rate of graduates and companies that hired graduates. The most important study part explanation is thought as extra of graduates’ employment situation. So when they choose their major, literature department tends not to be favored.

Generally, in Japanese university, students finish liberal education until sophomore. Students step into exclusive studies from junior. So to speak, actual performance starts from junior. However, the timing that companies show their motions to approach to students is when students become junior in university.

For junior students, companies open their websites to show the schedule for interview and orientation in autumn season. When students become senior grade, companies’ interviews start seriously and most of students don’t have any time to study their fields but to fight to win a position in a company for survival with other students.

Graduation thesis is one of the conditions to graduate from university as you know. Unable to stand by students’ too busy schedule any longer, some professors help students to write half of the thesis.

In the end, not a few students graduate from university without understanding what they have learnt for 4 years after all.

Japanese students don’t even choose university because they have some specific fields to study anymore. They choose university by its name brand. It is more important for student to choose university by how famous and high status it is because they know Japanese companies always care about applicant’s graduated university. Their criteria for employment tends to be a name of graduates’ universities rather than the speciality. They don’t focus on what applicants have learnt in university but believe in silly conjecture that students from high brand university should be smart and superior no matter what they do.

Usually, universities require students to have high potential on their studies to make them struggle out to find one solution to lead to a clue to solving the next difficulties and pay close attention to not lowering the quality of specialties in the field. So generally universities have their stances that whether students can graduate or not is totally depending on the student efforts.

However, I feel like Japanese universities hide their stance that they launch a life-boat to students for graduation to give them a degree easily in the background because the most effective way of collecting students for universities are to scatter bait of excellence of graduates’ employment rate around them. So students are convinced that they can naturally graduate after spending 4 years.

So substantial educational peak for students is said to be the season of entrance examination. In Japan, it is more difficult to enter the university than to graduate from university.

For most of student, once they enter the university, they prepare for job finding and wait for companies’s job finder hunting season.

Getting a job

Japanese companies have customary practice that they do recruitment activity simultaneously in the fixed term. Recruiting graduates in April all at once is Japanese unique recruitment system.

Speaking of why Japanese companies still keep this traditional custom of simultaneous recruiting of new gradates, this system is an essential tool to support the following factors, which are

  • lifetime employment
  • seniority wage system
  • On the job training
  • compulsory retirement
  • Job rotation system

These systems complement mutually and generate benefits to companies.

Lifetime employment is a word that criticizes Japanese society that forces people to push sense of value that devoting yourself to a company for the rest of your life is common for everyone.

This is not a system but expresses accurately the modern Japanese career building standard. Basically, thoughts of selfless devotion that people bet their lives on serving one lord for the rest of their lives to show faithfulness as a servant have been cultivated in Japanese people’s deep mind

The interdependence relation between servant’s faithfulness and lord’s assistance is a typical state how things are in Japanese society.

For example, things are like if a servant works harder and harder for a lord, a lord shows his kindness to cherish a servant and take much more care of a servant in all ways possible. A servant comes to feel a debt of gratitude towards a lord like “I can walk my life because of my lord’s special treatment”. In the end, a servant follows a lord’s fate for the rest of his/her life.

In this sense, a servant leaves his/her life responsibility in a lord instead of devoting very hard to a lord. A servant dedicate his/her life to a lord in compensation for being taken care of his/her life by a lord until dead. This way of thinking applies perfectly to the modern Japanese society.

Japanese companies expect workers to devote their lives to a society named a company. Japanese workers want a company to guarantee their lives. Both of them expect to build such a win-win relationship each other. But people have no idea to take responsibility for their lives and live their lives as they think.
Japanese people’s basic concept of their lives can be referred to the proverb “Look for a big tree when you want to shelter”


seniority wage system is a system that wage raises up in proportion to worker’s length of service and in consideration of age

When bureaucracy was founded for the first time in Japan in Meiji period (1868 ~ 1912), there were bureaucratic salary system which was divided in 15 classes and class system to distinguish between senior official and junior official and the government enacted informally pay raise policy which was by annual .

This informal pay raise system was substantially taken over and senior official was put into class 6 and it was called “career”. In private sector, lifetime employment and seniority wage system was thought to take hold on the Japanese society simultaneously.

Especially, in 1950 when labor-management dispute was intensified, management side adopted periodical pay raise system towards labor side requirement of stable wage. This backgrounds connects to seniority wage system.

In short, a model of seniority wage system was made by bureaucracy and this is kind of a employment custom that has been executed by Japanese big enterprises as trade-off between management side and labor side.


On the job training is in-house job training system for a newbie to get used to tasks

In Japanese companies, when new people are assigned to a section, a boss and seniors mostly instruct how to work somehow in most of sections of a company.

In fact, Japan has traditionally “no instructing culture” , or rather, this one is mainstream even now. Historically, a master instruct technologies that is never allowed to take outside to only the person who accomplishes long hard trainee period. Basically a master will not instruct carefully but let a trainee see what a master is doing and make a trainee do the same thing as master did.

However, this way of training takes a lot of time and probability that people can bring their potential is very low so after WW2, Japanese manufacturing site introduced “job instruction” imported from the US. However, the job instruction is based on manual labor of initial stage so some of instructions that is not mentioned on the manual was fully relied on each sections’ bosses.

In that case, there are a section that instruct new people earnestly and a section that ignore new people depending on the section because job training for new people is not the main task for bosses. So Japanese companies tackled with introduction of systematic on the job training to instruct new people more effectively. This is how this system was started in Japan.


Compulsory Retirement is one of work rules regulated by companies voluntarily that workers are required to fulfill labor contracts when becoming a certain age and no renewal of contracting for the next term is accepted.

Whether a company adopts this system or not is perfectly depending on the company’s discretion. As of 2016, the percentage of companies adopting compulsory retirement system is 95% in Japan. The age that workers are encouraged to retire is mostly 60 years old but depending on the company, there are a few differences in the retirement age.

People older than 60 which is said to be the retirement age, who work after retirement increase to make a help of their living costs. Because national pension receiving age is 65 legally, the government promote the policy that retired people can work continuously.

However, there is a really weird system on notional pension like people who don’t retired life fully but work continuously even after becoming 65 can’t receive pension fully. Some percentages of pension is reduced because there is source of income to rely on except for national pension.

Job rotation is kind of a job training system for new people to make them experience several types of work by transferring multiple sections on regular basis.

This is one of the most popular job training. Term of section transferring is 6 months at the least and is a couple of years at the most. Term length is really different depending on the company.

There are quite few tasks in a company and sections are created with respect to each one of business and services. Needless to say, so many people do their tasks every day and it is impossible to understand what people do in a section externally in a moment.

For that reason, companies make new people experience multiple sections to let them know broadly what company they work for and simply what people do in each sections through this job rotation system that also implicates personnel exchange.

Basically, job rotation is employed as one of “on the job training” in a section. This is executed with an objective to know aptitude for a job and grasp company’s situation for a couple of months. In addition, there is a case to utilize this system to develop employees who take over management post.


Japanese employment custom which is based on long-term employment has universalized in 1960 to 1970. With rapid growth of manufacturing, securing employment was a mission for Japanese companies to make the most of manpower and in order to collect labors, employment system like seniority wage and lifetime employment, which is interdependence system between employee and employer is what is called “stable employment system” for Japanese people and this spread around with economic growth.

As a result, internal labor market has developed in Japan. Japanese companies consist of many sections distinguished into individual specialities and strict hierarchy is applied from the bottom of general labors’ posts to management posts.

Japanese companies subject to long-term employment instruct and develop workers of a certain section and class uniquely to promote them to a certain position.

Employees get promoted spirally through job rotation to experience various kinds of sections and tasks. This is how internal market developed uniquely in Japanese companies.

On the other hand, in the United States, the situation is opposite. US companies generally secure employment resources from outside externally. In external labor market, people are required to have general flexible skills which they can make the most of for any positions of any companies.

In internal labor market, people are required to have unique skills that they can only use in a company they are working for. For that reason, Japanese companies place importance on internal job training. Although MBA holders are appreciated in Finland or other western countries, Japanese society feels indifferent towards those people because there is the above reason.

This employment custom creates a situation that people feel it difficult to change jobs and companies take up too exclusive attitude towards people who try to change jobs. So there is no freedom mentally to build own career path in Japan.

Working style

You probably know slightly Japanese working style. What you can image a working style with a word of “workaholic”, “work overtime”, “no holidays”, “back home very late” is very Japanese working style.

Before the tribunal of public opinion, working environment has been improved compared to a dark age but custom rooted deeply in Japanese working tradition cannot be easily removed to follow the good examples of other country’s working style.

Japanese worker’s one day is bound by long time working hours. They start working at 7 a.m. and finish at 11 p.m.
I will introduce you part of my working life in Japan

Working in Japan, it makes me feel like I must prioritize working over any other activities even if I cut down my sleeping time. In my office, 8 hours is regular working time per day which is written on employment contract clearly. But actually, there are many days that I am bound by a company for more than 13 hours a day.

At the moment I wake up in the morning at 7, my preparation for going to work starts in a rush. Wash my face, eat easy breakfast and changing my cloth as fast as I can.

Reaching my office on time, don’t miss to get on a train. I am not granted freedom to avoid full crowded train. Commuting time is only the time I can use freely in the morning. However, what I can do in such a overcrowded space is only listening to music. Luckily, some space of a bench become vacant, I don’t hesitate and rush to sit. Probably at a moment I sit, I fall asleep because of unrecovered exhaustion of the previous day.

I have a much time from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. I’ve never gone for a lunch with someone I wanted to talk with at my favorite restaurant.
I always order delivery bento or go to a fast food restaurant close to my office. Mostly, I eat lunch alone.

 

My working time is until 6 p.m. but the days I can leave office at 6 p.m. is Wednesday and a day that a company designated as no overtime day. Leaving-work-on-time day has been introduced recently. A managing director behaved in a patronizing and seemed to want to say “just thank me”.

Sometimes, I can’t leave office on no overtime day because of my delayed project. Even when I am not busy with a project, I usually leave office at 8 p.m. except for no over time day. When I am really busy, there is often a case that I can’t leave office even at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. Sometimes it becomes the next day while I work and I also spend my holiday to catch up with delayed schedule.

As I said, even when I am not really busy, basically I am bond by an office for at least 13 hours. If I could make time for 1 to 2 hours to read books and go to a gym in a day, I could wish for nothing better than that. The busier my tasks becomes, no more time I can make for my pastime and I end up cutting down my sleeping time.

Conclusion

  • Dissatisfaction that people can’t change job easily.
  • Dissatisfaction that people are not released from many hours of restraint by a company
  • Dissatisfaction that people can’t make time for their pastime
  • Dissatisfaction that people can’t recover from fatigue of the pervious day.

These dissatisfactions are the worst symbol of Japanese nonproductive working style that force people restrain happiness life and dedicate all their life time to work.

All the countries in the world learn a lessen from this hell life style to think about what happy life is. Needless to say, people are born to be happy. Don’t dedicate your life easily to others.

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