When talking about work, there are two verbs that are often used.
はたらく means ‘to work’. It is preceded by で in use. For example:
つとめる means ‘to be employed at’. It is preceded by に.
For jobs and places of employment, see Vocabulary section.
Japanese Working Life
Whether they are company employees or not, Japanese people are known as hard workers. They work long hours and are very dedicated to their jobs. In Japan, in the past, people rarely changed jobs. In recent years, this attitude has somewhat changed and people do change jobs, to a certain extent. However, the traditional ideas and attitude about the jobs still remain. A person would start from the bottom, and by working hard, without changing jobs, steadily climb towards the top of the ladder. Some workers consider their jobs to be more important than their families. This dedication could be one of the reasons for Japan’s industrial success.
Those who dedicate themselves fully to the company get a guarantee of lifetime employment and access to company benefits such as cheap housing, cheap insurance schemes and the use of the company’ recreation facilities. However, not everyone is lucky to have a full-time job and security. With the end of ‘boom times’ in the Japanese economy at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21 st centuries, a number of people became unemployed to to ‘restructuring’ 「リストラ」. Those people make their living by doing any jobs available. They are called 「フリーター」.
There are some young people who have jobs but still live with their parents and save the cost of housing and food. These people are called 「パラサイトシングル」’parasite singles’. Some young people who have no jobs and depend on their are called「ニート」. Unemployed young people have become on of the social problems.
サラリーマン means white collar workers who receive a monthly salary. This is 75% of the workforce. They live in the suburbs of big cities and spend one or two hours a day getting to work. They go to the nearest station on foot or by bicycle; from there, they take the train. At every station, there is a bicycle park where hundreds of bicycles are parked every day. Most ‘salary men’ travel at peak hour, so the trains are very crowded between seven and ten in the morning.
Within the company, rank and position are important and the workers are expected to show respect to persons in senior positions. This respect can be shown by the way you bow and the keigo (polite speech) used.
The ‘bonus’ is another feature of a Japanese worker’s life. It is actually a part of a worker’s regular pay which s withheld by the employer and then given to the worker in a lump sum twice a year, in June and December. The ‘salary man’ and his family look forward to this lump sum of income. They might use some of it to buy a gift for someone else as the bonus times correspond to the gift giving seasons. They may use it to go on a trip overseas.
For more information about young people’s working life (フリーター・ニート) click here.