March 09, 2004
Furita Futures for Japanese Youth
Yesterday there was a special on NHK about "Furita." The word comes from "Free Arubaita" and refers to a special class of part time workers. Furita work part time without attachment to any particular company. Thus they freely move in and out of jobs as need arises.
I personally get upset thinking about salary jobs in Japanese companies. I'm used to the idea of eight hour work days, regular vacations, overtime as the exception, and just having a life outside of work. But here I see Japanese kids growing up without having their fathers around, and that bothers me.
The TV program was asking why there are so many Furita (about 250,000 now in Japan). My instant analysis was: young people don't want the kind of life that you get in a company job. Maybe that's partly true, but I think I don't get it yet. Today I met with my friend who is a self-described Furita. He's about my age, intelligent and capable. I've always thought he's satisfied with his situation in life, but I was wrong. He would love to work full time in a Japanese company if he could find the right position, but it's not so simple. Japanese companies hire most new workers straight out of school (high school, college, trade school, etc). Then the companies form this raw material into trained employees who are expected to give their loyalty and service in return. Once that initial hiring window passes for you, it becomes much harder to get in to a good company job. There are exceptions for some skilled workers who are highly in demand, but many who don't get hired right away (or who get laid off, quit their jobs, etc) end up on the outside looking in.
From my friend's standpoint, it's a hard life. Adding insult to injury, being a Furita means he doesn't have "chii" when he goes to work. "Chii" roughly translates as status or personal standing. A person without "chii" has no rank or status. They are beneath everyone else, like a tool, as another friend explained. You appreciate chii when you've got it, but even more when you don't.
By the way, Japanese companies are hiring fewer people. That means many graduates who actually want jobs aren't getting them. But companies are turning around and hiring them as Furita instead. Furita get less pay for the same work, no benefits, and they're easy to hire and fire at will.Posted by jw at March 9, 2004 11:07 AM