Archive for March, 2011

Fukushima 50 – lessons in worker loyalty

Mar 19, 2011, Straits Times Forum

THE extraordinary courage of the Fukushima 50 – the Japanese engineers and technicians battling to contain the nuclear fallout from reactors damaged in the earthquake and tsunami – offers lessons to Singaporeans.

One important factor behind the dedication of these workers is Japan’s collectivistic corporate culture that values loyalty and ensures long-term employment security. This is in contrast to the American model, which is characterised by individualism and short-term profitability.

These values are reflected in the salaries of senior executives: CEOs in Japan are rewarded far less than their counterparts in the United States and Europe.

While the Japanese corporate culture has often been criticised for breeding conservatism and inertia, and for rewarding riskaverse senior management, it has also fostered an exceptional sense of team spirit and commitment that transcends short-term gains. This sense of esprit de corps is evident among the Fukushima 50 workers, and it is through them that the best of Japan Inc is being shown in these harrowing times.

Singapore Inc has been moving towards the US model with its emphasis on rewarding ‘top talent’ generously. Over the years, we have been seeing increasingly disproportionate levels of remuneration for senior executives in contrast to workers down the line who have to face the prospects of redundancy and wage reduction in tough times.

Also, given the ease of replacing local staff with foreign labour, Singapore Inc risks being turned into a mercenary, alien and transient space peopled by workers with little sense of belonging, loyalty and commitment that is found in the Japanese worker.

Liew Kai Khiun

March 19, 2011 at 5:44 pm 1 comment


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