Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Japanese Personnel Practices and Nuclear Regulation:

More on Amakudari

In the past few days, I had 2 excellent comments on a blog I posted last May on the link between Japanese personnel practices, particularly one called amakudari, or "descent from heaven," and Fukushima. The 2 new comments elaborated on what I had said about the practice of amakudari and provided further information that I thought might be of interest to my readers. I have posted the comments with that blog, but since it is an old blog, I wasn't sure it would be seen by everyone.

Hence, I decided to post both comments as a new blog, hoping that will give the comments a bigger audience. I'd call this a guest blog, but unfortunately, I can't credit my guest, as the author of the comments chose to post them anonymously. Normally, I prefer if people who comment on my blog identify themselves, but I have posted generally anonymous comments, as long as they are constructive, because I realize some people may have constraints on what they can say publicly.

If the author of these comments wishes to be identified, I will gladly add a credit when they come forward, but if they prefer to remain under cover, I will simply say here that I wish to thank Mr. or Ms. Anonymous for a very thoughtful contribution to my blog.

Comments by Anonymous (Message 1):

I think that the statement "The answer is that it is very different" really hits the point. In Japan, amakudari is an integral part of their HR system, and it is not just confined to the bureaucrats but is also practiced by the bankers and the mainstream staff of big corporations.

In those organisations, almost all the staff members are given a guarantee of life-time employment in return for sacrificing their free will and personal development. The life-time employment is closely linked to jinjiidou, i.e., regular personnel reshuffling without any consideration for personal situations, and nenkoujoretsu, i.e., salary based on seniority and not on merit.

The HR system is very much like an ancient guild where the aprenticeship prevailed and the pecking order was a norm. In addition, the life-time employment means that the real structure of the organisation is a "rectangle:, and those who are outside of the formal hierarchy which is a "triangle" need to be taken care of. And that is the reason why amakudari is inevitable.

So amakudari people descend from government to their controlled banks/corporations, and from banks/corporations to their debtors/subsidiaries, etc. The movements are systematically controlled by their personnel departments.

All these things can be done because the people do not sign employment contracts and just follow the unwritten custom. The custom is against the constitution, but nobody will mention it. The education system has brainwashed the people to believe in this anciant custom.

I believe that it is dangerous to leave the HR system as it is while it deals with the modern technologies. Because, in such an HR system, basically nobody will take overall responsibility for any problems such as Fukushima nuclear reactor incident.

Comments by Anonymous (Message 2):
One thing which I forgot to mention is that because the staff are constantly being reshuffled (jinjiidou) in the Japanese HR system, nobody will stay in the same position for more than 2 years (the fast track elite) or for 4-5 years or more (non-elite).

The bureaucrats will say that this constant reshuffling is helping to prevent the corruption, but this is an excuse for dispersing and bluring the responsibility among themselves in case there is any failure or a wrong doing, although it may also means that nobody can be credited for any good achievement.

Hence, at the time of the Fukushima nuclear reactor incident, nobody had an overall view on what was happening, as they were not expected to have such a wide view. Even the prime minister had no clear idea until after the explosions happened.

I believe that this is truly the outcome of the incomplete reforms of the post-WWII US occupation, which was supposed to transform the ancient regime into a democratic one. Unfortunately the virus survived among the bureaucrats during the occupation and it has spread to the banks/corporations under their control - and even schools.

The teachers are being reshuffled within the same prefecture, where the education committee has the HR power. Unlike schools in the US/UK or anywhere else, the headmaster of state schools does not have the power of hiring and firing their teachers.


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