“Labor union”, every one of us can often hear this very common word. But not many of us know clearly their structure, status and their differences among countries. Since this academic paper is done for students of the Faculty of management, Comenius University, we can base our cogitation on their common sense. If I ask such a student for giving me labor unions main purposes, the answer would be based on his or her knowledge acquired on HRM lectures. This would probably be an answer according to the reality in the USA, since the literature and sources for study on HRM lectures are based on American authors. However, the reality in Europe, Asia and especially in Slovakia is much different. Therefore we decided to make a study on the status, role and forms of the labor unions in the Slovakia and in the Japan as well, because we believe, that our student should clearly know the Slovak labor unions, and as attendants of Personnel Management – Special Topics, which deals with Japanese approach to management, they should be interested in the situation of labor unions in Japan. For better understanding of the topic we decided on giving a special accent and space for analyzing the cultural and mental specifics of the Japanese compared to Slovaks.
We seek to show the interdependence of culture and traditions of each country with its labor unions. Further, we wish to support our hypothesis that the evolution of labor unions and their membership is linked with the social and demographic changes in these two countries. We believe that the decreasing social security and increasing unemployment have a negative effect on unionization of workers and that with the decreasing job security people have the tendency not to unionize.
Chapter 1 Japan – Changes in Society
I. History- Economy, Government
Since the 1950’s, Japan marked an unprecedented growth of its economy, with which came a period of prosperity. After the WWII, the nation focused on reconstruction to the pre-war state. However, the foreign occupation has affected the Japanese society and government. Japan has been a military dictatorship until the mid-19th century. Instead of returning to its pre-war empire and isolation (held until 1858), in 1947 Japan started experimenting with democracy. After regaining self-governance in 1952, the nation became a constitutional monarchy. The emperor is the head of the state, but after WWII, he had to admit he was no godly being and nowadays has no executive power. The head of the government is the prime minister, who has executive power, along with the legislative power embedded in the House of Representatives and House of Councilors.
After WWII, Japan concentrated on textile production, supplying markets in the West. Slowly it changed to heavy and chemical industry, using large amounts of oil. The first major shock to the country came in 1973 with the oil crisis, when astronomic rise in prices of oil rocked the economy. Japan reacted swiftly, moved its heavy industry production to Thailand, Malaysia, or Indonesia, and on domestic market turned back to light industry. From then on, its major concentration in industry was on motor vehicles and electrical machinery like color televisions or precision instruments. Its major trading partner became the United States and European nations. In the latter years, Japanese car manufacturers have started to shift their production facilities to other countries, utilizing their cheap labor. The economy started to shift from primary industry to tertiary, which was dominant since 1970s. [*]