IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Japanese employment system in transition


  • Dirks, Daniel
  • Hemmert, Martin
  • Legewie, Jochen
  • Meyer-Ohle, Hendrik
  • Waldenberger, Franz


In the post-bubble era, Japan is going through major structural upheavals and the relevance of the five perspectives presented here on the implications of these changes for the Japanese employment system can hardly be overstated. The institutions and practices of the Japanese employment system are closely linked to the Japanese model of skill formation, human resource management and innovation. The relevance of "lifetime employment" for the accumulation and preservation of knowledge within companies has been documented for example in comparative studies on the Japanese and US semiconductor industries. The knowledge sharing, problem solving capacities and high commitment of Japanese employees are very much enhanced by the late selection characteristics as implied by "seniority" based promotion schemes. If the skills, the innovative capacities and the commitment of Japanese employees have been so much supported by the salient features of the Japanese employment system, it is essential to see what is happening to the latter when reflecting on the future of the former. This is the prime purpose of this article. Each of the following sections looks at specific changes in the economic environment, that are challenging the further viability of "traditional" human resource management practices: In particular, the first section looks at the rapid aging of the work force as a key "domestic" factor, while the second section looks at the implications of Japanese internationalisation in the post-bubble era and, especially, the "hollowing out" of the industrial system due to increasing competitive pressures from low labor cost countries. Adaptations necessitated by these challenges have already transformed the Japanese employment system and will continue to do so, as is discussed in the third section. It is not difficult to guess that this will have repercussions on the process of knowledge creation and transfer in the Japanese economy and the final section therefore looks specifically at the changes to the Human Resource Management system in the Japanese Innovation System.

Suggested Citation

  • Dirks, Daniel & Hemmert, Martin & Legewie, Jochen & Meyer-Ohle, Hendrik & Waldenberger, Franz, 2000. "The Japanese employment system in transition," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 9(5), pages 525-553, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:iburev:v:9:y:2000:i:5:p:525-553

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hashimoto, Masanori & Raisian, John, 1985. "Employment Tenure and Earnings Profiles in Japan and the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 721-735, September.
    2. Hashimoto, Masanori & Raisian, John, 1992. "Employment Tenure and Earnings Profiles in Japan and the United States: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 346-354, March.
    3. Lipsey, Robert E & Weiss, Merle Yahr, 1981. "Foreign Production and Exports in Manufacturing Industries," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 63(4), pages 488-494, November.
    4. Irving B. Kravis & Robert E. Lipsey, 1988. "The Effect of Multinational Firms' Operations on Their Domestic Employment," NBER Working Papers 2760, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Slater, Stephanie & Robson, Matthew J., 2012. "Cultural interpretations of destructive acts and trust in Japanese supply channel relationships," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 357-368.
    2. Pease, Stephanie & Paliwoda, Stanley & Slater, Jim, 2006. "The erosion of stable shareholder practice in Japan ("Anteikabunushi Kosaku")," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 15(6), pages 618-640, December.
    3. Saka-Helmhout, Ayse, 2010. "Organizational learning as a situated routine-based activity in international settings," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 41-48, January.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:iburev:v:9:y:2000:i:5:p:525-553. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.