Reconsidering Japanese employment practices
Introduction Japan’s dramatic reversal in economic performance during the 1990s, heralded by the ‘burst of the bubble’, fundamentally altered the positive perception of its economic practices. The debate focused on the inefficiency of important economic institutions and the likelihood of convergence to US-type regulation and capitalism. This also held for the typical Japanese employment practices. The positive analyses of earlier years made way for renewed discussion in both the academic and popular Japanese business press. Moreover, firms introduced important adaptations in their personnel management. Two developments stand out. A first is the introduction of performance-related pay, in Japan known as seikashugi. The early years of the twenty-first century saw a long string of Japanese publications regarding its introduction (e.g. Fukase 2001; Nihon Keieisha Dantairenmei Shuppanbu 2001; Rōmu Gyōsei Kenkyūjo 2000; Utanabe 2000; Yamaguchi and Tsureta 2001). Moreover, the majority of firms did indeed introduce a form of performance-related pay. The second major development has been the rise in nonregular (e.g. part-time, temporary, agency) employment by more than 10 per cent of total employment in the decade up to 2005. This rise is particularly striking as non-regular employment has long been ascribed a secondary role as employment buffer in analyses of Japanese employment practices.