IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The End of Jobs for Life? Corporate Employment Systems: Japan and Elsewhere


  • Ron Dore


"It is not only in Japan that traditional employment systems are being called into question. It has become conventional wisdom on the OECD conference circuit that we are entering a new era of intensified global competition in which only the most and quot;flexible" firms can survive. 'Flexibility' and the elimination of rigidities, particularly labour market rigidities, became, in the mid-1980s, the keynote of prescriptions both for lack of competitiveness and for rising unemployment. Even earlier reservations about the desirability of preserving a "core" of stable, long-serving, committed workers, differentiated from a flexible "periphery" have given way to prescriptions for wholesale 'down-sizing.' There is a flexibility trade off. Concern with labour market flexibility -- especially managers' ability to hire and fire at will -- is strengthened in the Anglo-Saxon economies by the inflexibility of the financial markets they face. Japanese firms, being more insulated from the short-term demands of shareholders, have hitherto been able to afford more 'rigid' employment systems from which they gain the advantage of employee commitment and cooperative and flexible attitudes to work. But today the competitiveness/flexibility concern grows in Japan too. The lifetime employment/seniority-constrained pay and promotion system is under attack. Advocacy of change is common; assertions that wholesale change has already taken place almost equally common. The reasons are to be found partly in the objective situations of many firms after four years of recession, partly in a loss of self-confidence and a 'resurgence of the American model.' Actual change seems in fact to be marginal, but there are a number of grounds for expecting change in the future: value change -- greater affluence, diminished work ethic, and diminished egalitarianism; the possible resurgence of shareholder power; the declining influence of unions; the declining 'intellectual quality' of blue-collar and routine white-collar workers; increased inter-firm competition and the reduction of industry cartel understandings; slower growth; low wage competition, particularly in future from China, and the "hollowing-out" response thereto. Those who have a stake in Japan's "employee sovereignty" jimponshugi, and would be reluctant to see it slide into just another version of "shareholder sovereignty" Anglo-Saxon capitalism, might be expected to be proposing legislation to bring company law in line with current Japanese reality. No one seems to be doing so."

Suggested Citation

  • Ron Dore, 1996. "The End of Jobs for Life? Corporate Employment Systems: Japan and Elsewhere," CEP Occasional Papers 11, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepops:11

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


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

    Cited by:

    1. Matouschek, Niko & Ramezzana, Paolo & Robert-Nicoud, Frédéric, 2004. "Labour Market Frictions, Job Insecurity and the Flexibility of the Employment Relationship," CEPR Discussion Papers 4193, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Ian Maitland & Mitsuhiro Umezu, 2006. "An Evaluation of Japan's Stakeholder Capitalism," Journal of Private Enterprise, The Association of Private Enterprise Education, vol. 22(Spring 20), pages 131-164.
    3. Niko Matouschek & Paolo Ramezzana, 2004. "Labor Market Frictions, Job Insecurity, and the Flexibility of the Employment Relationship," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 28, Econometric Society.
    4. Hiroyuki Chuma & Takao Kato & Isao Ohashi, 2004. "What Japanese Workers Want: Evidence from the Japanese Worker Representation and Participation Survey," Discussion papers 04019, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    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:cep:cepops:11. 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: (). 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.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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.