Feeds

Japan's unwanted IT workers dumped in 'forcing-out rooms'

Firms bore unwanted workers into bailing

Security for virtualized datacentres

Some of Japan’s biggest technology companies send certain employees to “boredom" or "forcing-out" rooms where they’re forced to undertake menial tasks designed to make them quit.

A New York Times report detailed the experience of 51-year-old Sony employee Shusaku Tani who refused to take early retirement after his position at the Sony Sendai Technology Center was eliminated.

With no job left for Tani and others like him at the firm, Sony decided to put them in an oidashibeya – which can be translated as “forcing-out room” or less accurately “boredom room”.

Here he apparently browses the web and reads books all day before preparing a daily report on his activities and leaving for home.

In other cases, skilled employees have apparently been forced to undertake data entry or repetitive assembly line work. The idea appears to be to make work so boring, uninspiring and shameful that the employee eventually gives in and resigns.

Sony pointed out to the paper that it does give counselling to such employees to help find them new jobs in the company or elsewhere.

It’s unclear how extensive this practice is in Japan although the NYT referred to local media reports claiming that Panasonic, NEC and Toshiba, among others, use the technique.

Boring workers to career death may be a symptom of labour laws that make it difficult for corporates to lay off staff without good reason.

“We consider that the biggest reason why the Japanese electronics industry is getting weak is the strict employment policy in Japan,” Gartner analyst Hiroyuki Shimizu told The Reg.

“It is almost impossible for Japanese companies to flexibly restructure their human resources. It is also difficult to close factories in Japan, as a lot of people are laid off.”

Over the past 20 years, company execs have therefore been focussed on technology areas where they have the most human resources and assets rather than where they can differentiate, he explained.

Shimizu gave the example of the Sony Walkman, which the firm is still developing even though Apple has the dominant global market share in that area.

“Sony keeps focusing on the development of sound quality, even though many users hate Sony’s music content management software ‘X-Application’,” he said.

“It is difficult for Japanese companies like Sony to neglect the audio and visual quality engineering, as there are so many super engineers in these segments. On the other hand, they do not have enough engineering resources for the application software development.”

As the NYT pointed out, current prime minister Shinzo Abe is looking to change Japan’s labour laws to make it easier to fire staff, although he’s treading carefully and well he might, given the large number of voters who still believe in a “job for life”.

Japanese electronics makers can't blame inflexible employment law for all their woes over the past two decades, however.

Cheap competition from elsewhere in Asia and the commoditisation of consumer electronics have also contributed to their decline. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Want to break Netflix? It'll pay you to do the job
'Senior Chaos Engineer' sought to inflict all sorts of nasty, nasty, pain
HOT BABES! Worried you won't get that JOB in IT? MENTION how hot you are
'Don't hate me 'cos I'm beautiful' ploy for sad honeys
Oracle to DBAs: your certification is about to become worthless paper
So hurry up and get a new one, will all of you who took exams for 10g and lower?
HP's axe swings AGAIN: 5,000 more staffers for the chop
Extra job cuts not linked to PC and printer biz split
Phones 4u demise: 1,700 employees laid off with redundo package
'Limited interest in remaining 362 stores', says administrator PwC
Germany strikes again over Amazon warehouse pay
Employees to walk out in long-running wage dispute
Amazon hiring in Australia for 'new and confidential Amazon Fresh initiative'
Is Jeff Bezos moving his grocery business beyond the US West Coast?
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.