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

Author Name CHUMA Hiroyuki  (Faculty Fellow) /KATO Takao/OHASHI Isao
Creation Date/NO. April 2004 04-E-019
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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.