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What Japanese Workers Want: Evidence from the Japanese Worker Representation and Participation Survey

  • Hiroyuki Chuma
  • Takao Kato
  • Isao Ohashi

Using a unique new survey, the Japanese Worker Representation and Participation Survey (JWRPS), this paper presents the first evidence on the representation/participation gaps among Japanese workers and its links to the degree of their discontent with work and the efficacy of celebrated participatory employment practices. We find that: (i) contrary to the popular rhetoric of the end of "participatory Japanese management", Japanese workers still desire more involvement and greater voice in firm decisions; and (ii) in spite of their strong desire to have more influence, many Japanese workers consider their current level of say at work less than adequate, resulting in significant representation/participation gaps which are comparable to what has been found for U.S. workers. Furthermore, we find an alarming degree of discontent with work among Japanese workers, measured by diverse variables, and weak employee involvement and influence are found to be significantly linked to the degree of such discontent. Finally, our analysis of the survey data yields evidence in support of the hypotheses that: (i) working in firms with strong participatory programs will significantly enhance employee voice; (ii) among those working in participatory firms, actually participating in these programs will yield an additional boost for employee voice; and (iii) financial participation schemes will align the interest of employees with the interest of the firm and thus make employees wanting to have more influence in firm decisions. Our findings suggest that weakening participatory employment practices (as the popular rhetoric at times suggests) may result in exacerbating the already alarming degree of employee dissatisfaction in Japan.

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Paper provided by Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI) in its series Discussion papers with number 04019.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:eti:dpaper:04019
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  1. Takao Kato & Motohiro Morishima, 1995. "The Productivity Effects of Human Resource Management Practices: Evidence from New Japanese Panel Data," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_143, Levy Economics Institute.
  2. Sandra E. Black & Lisa M. Lynch, 1997. "How to Compete: The Impact of Workplace Practices and Information Technology on Productivity," NBER Working Papers 6120, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Peter Cappelli & David Neumark, 2001. "Do "high-performance" work practices improve establishment-level outcomes?," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 54(4), pages 737-775, July.
  4. Ann P. Bartel, 2000. "Human Resource Management and Performance in the Service Sector: The Case of Bank Branches," NBER Working Papers 7467, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Barton H. Hamilton & Jack A. Nickerson & Hideo Owan, 2003. "Team Incentives and Worker Heterogeneity: An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Teams on Productivity and Participation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(3), pages 465-497, June.
  6. Hiroyuki Chuma, 2003. "Determinants of the Shadow Value of Simultaneous Information Sharing in the Japanese Machine-Tool Manufacturing Industry," NBER Chapters, in: Labor Markets and Firm Benefit Policies in Japan and the United States, pages 81-102 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Rosemary Batt, 1999. "Work organization, technology, and performance in customer service and sales," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(4), pages 539-564, July.
  8. Ichniowski, Casey & Shaw, Kathryn & Prennushi, Giovanna, 1997. "The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity: A Study of Steel Finishing Lines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 291-313, June.
  9. Ohkusa, Yasushi & Ohtake, Fumio, 1997. "The Productivity Effects of Information Sharing, Profit Sharing, and ESOPs," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 385-402, September.
  10. Ann P. Bartel & Nachum Sicherman, 1997. "Technological Change and Wages: An Inter-Industry Analysis," NBER Working Papers 5941, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Berman, Eli & Bound, John & Griliches, Zvi, 1994. "Changes in the Demand for Skilled Labor within U.S. Manufacturing: Evidence from the Annual Survey of Manufactures," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(2), pages 367-97, May.
  12. Richard B. Freeman & Morris M. Kleiner & Cheri Ostroff, 2000. "The Anatomy of Employee Involvement and Its Effects on Firms and Workers," NBER Working Papers 8050, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Takao Kato, 2003. "The Recent Transformation of Participatory Employment Practices in Japan," NBER Chapters, in: Labor Markets and Firm Benefit Policies in Japan and the United States, pages 39-80 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Ron Dore, 1996. "The End of Jobs for Life? Corporate Employment Systems: Japan and Elsewhere," CEP Occasional Papers 11, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  15. Kato, Takao, 2001. "The End of Lifetime Employment in Japan?: Evidence from National Surveys and Field Research," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 489-514, December.
  16. Susan Helper, 1997. "Complementarity and Cost Reduction: Evidence from the Auto Supply Industry," NBER Working Papers 6033, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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