Toyota's employment relations after 2000 in Japan

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2014)


Toyota continues to reap profits except for 2009, a year after the global financial crisis occurred. Yet, the economic and social crisis in Japan has become severe. Above all, we observe the intensification of the neglect of humanity as shown in karoshi (death brought on by overwork or job-related exhaustion) and the poor handling of the Fukushima nuclear accident and of the crisis of democracy as shown in the passage of the secret act. They are remarkably similar to“ human management (=control)” under Toyota system established in Japan. Therefore, I would like to report Toyota's employment relations after 2000 under regressive capitalist system in Japan.
Toyota had employed non-regular employees such as seasonal plant workers, subcontractor's workers, part-time workers under Toyota's labor-management relationship since the mid-1960s. Since around 2000, then, the number of non-regular employees in both Toyota and its subcontracting enterprises has increased rapidly, resulting in the diversity of its employment pattern and the expansion of discriminatory employment practices. However, wage and work conditions for regular employees in Toyota have rarely improved and those for non-regular workers have deteriorated so badly in spite of its high profitability.
Their working hours remain long but non-paid quality control activities (QC Circles) have started to be paid after the court judged that the sudden death of Kenichi Uchino, a group leader for quality control in a Toyota's auto body parts factory in Aichi Prefecture, was the product of extreme long and intense work related stress. Differences in wage and working conditions and discriminatory management of personnel evaluation continue to exist. Then, the reduction of employee benefits is underway.

Toyota values the development of human resources, that is, the making of “Toyotaman” highly. Toyotaman's ideas of business and management and remarks from managerial positions are consistent, penetrating into Toyota's labor union. As a result, most of leaders and members of Toyota's labor union have become the vanguard of Toyota, placing the strength of competitiveness above anything else. The differences between companies and discriminative structure are maintained and reinforced. Disparities and discrimination in types of employment are further strengthened. These contribute to the collapse of citizens' solidarity with workers.

Worsening economic circumstances have induced Toyota's managers and “Toyotaman” to the strengthening of corporate competitiveness by labor-management cooperation. Yet, labor disputes occur frequently among subcontractor's workers who face severe employment discrimination amid a continuing anomalous increase of internal reserves.

Toyota is aimed at developing human resources suited for Toyota, that is, making “Toyotaman.” The Abe administration also tries to make the “Japanese people” based on prewar traditions of bowing to the Japanese Rising Sun flag from the waist, singing Japan's national anthem – Kimigayo, and taking moral training of Shushin education. Democracy is long gone in the workplace of large enterprises. Furthermore, the collapse of democracy spreads to civil society by the enactment of the secret act by which we are facing the crisis of collapsing the framework of Japanese “welfare state” and the spirit of democracy which have been established since the end of World War II.



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