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Sometimes, you’ll hear it said that relations between Japanese employers and employees is different from that of non-Japanese companies. Japanese employees are loyal to the firm, and the firm is loyal to them in turn. Therefore, a Japanese employee will stay with the one employer from life to death, and the company will pay him a generous pension to thank him for his service. Often, you’ll hear racist sociologists tracing this to traditional feudal values (as though all modern values didn’t somehow evolve from feudal beliefs). But what’s surprising is that the Japanese didn’t always have this system. It dates from after the World War and it is beginning to end now.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Japan had a very orthodox capitalist system, in which employees regularly switched employers. The culture of one-employee-one-employer only arose when wartime planning measures came into effect and the Japanese discovered that they liked it.

Source: Tetsuji Okazaki and Masahiro Okuno-Fujiwara , ‘Historical Origins’ in The Japanese Economic System and its Historical Origins

 

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