The inefficiency of sexism in Japan
Sanne van Oosten
Japan is the land of efficiency. If a machine can do the job, then let the machine do that job! If a person can do something in a more efficient manner, make up a system in which this happens! There is no country in the world that is this efficient, and we’re having a lot of fun being amazed by all the smart tricks of the Japanese. However, there is one way that Japan can be even more efficient. But first I’ll tell you about the ways in which Japan is very efficient.
Where else will you be able to enjoy a completely automatic restaurant dinner than in Japan? The only moment there is human interaction between staff and customer is the moment the customers are assigned a table and the moment the customers pay the bill. The rest is completely automatic.
The customers sit at tables adjoining a conveyer belt on which all kinds of sushi rolls by. Whenever interested in a dish, you just pick it up and dig in. Above the conveyer belt is a touch screen with a wider selection of dishes that might fancy your interest. The screen shows a traditionally dressed figure bow a typically deep bow and your order is on the way. Before you know it, a train above the conveyer belt zooms to your table and you have the dish you want. Easy peasy Japonesy.
What if you want a freshly tapped beer? There are machines to do that as well. You just let the machine hold the glass at an angle, it fills the glass and adds the appropriate amount of foam to make the perfect beer. See the video above.
And what to do when you have to pay your bill? All the dishes you use are slid into a collector at the side of the table. The collector counts exactly how many dishes are slid in and based on that your bill is made up. When you are finished with your meal you go to the counter, pay and you are on your way.
But there are many more efficiency anecdotes to be told about Japan. Everywhere you go you will find soda machines that dispense a large collection of sodas. There is no way to get thirsty in Japan, at least if you have some coins on you. And then when you feel you need to tinkle, you just head over to a typical Japanese toilet. When you flush, the faucet at the top of the water tank starts running so you can wash your hands and let the water tank fill up at the same time. Why don’t we all do it this way?
This is a question I have asked myself many times. The Japanese have thought out so many different ways of being efficient, why don’t we all do that? There is one exception though. In the human resources department, Japan is farther away from efficiency than just about any other industrialized nation in the world.
This has everything to do with the attitudes towards gender roles. The Dentsu Institute for Human studies asked a large sample of people in Japan, the US and England if men should work outside and women should maintain the household. In the US and England only approximately 10 percent answered yes, whereas in Japan 16 percent answered as such. When asking this same group of people of gender roles should be determined freely 81 percent answered yes in both England and the US, whereas in Japan only 46 percent answered positively to this statement. What someone answers in a survey and what someone actually does can lie far apart, but the fact that Japanese people have such a conservative way of thinking about gender roles shows a lot about the attitudes towards women in the workforce.
Of all the industrialized countries the gender wage gap is the largest in Japan and Korea. In these countries, men earn 30 percent more than their female counterparts when in a full-time position.
Since men earn so much more than women do, married couples tend to opt for letting the husband work while the wife doesn’t work at all. And when the typical Japanese man works, he works upward of 60 hours a week. Many negative consequences are known for letting men work such long hours. They don’t have any time to have a family and/or social life. They often drink large amounts of alcohol in order to cope with the stress. And when you work an average of 60 hours a week you are no longer as concentrated and efficient than you would be working lesser hours a week.
So why doesn’t this change? Why doesn’t Japan decide to pay the other half of their labor force a wage that is in line with the wages their male counterparts are earning? If Japan would figure out a way to break down the barrier for women to work, they could be more efficient than ever.
Instead of making men work sixty hours a week, wouldn’t everyone be more efficient if men and women would work 30 hours a week? And I bet you that when this happens they will both be more productive together in those hours, than one man could ever be. Also, couldn’t this also help people enjoy their lives more? And as every human resources department knows: a happy worker is a good worker. So what’s keeping you?