Japanese blue collar workers

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The blue collar worker (Nikutai-rōdō-sha (肉体労働者?) in Japanese) encompasses many different types of jobs, skilled and unskilled, including factory workers, construction workers, and agricultural workers.

In the context of Japanese culture, the blue collar worker can be viewed in relation to its converse: the white-collar worker or the stereotypical Japanese “salaryman”. In Japanese culture, the salaryman is seen as someone whose goal is to be a successful businessman regardless of the impact on his family or on his own personal happiness; commitment and loyalties lie more with the company than the family.[1] The Japanese white-collar worker is generally University educated, while a blue-collar worker normally only has a high school diploma or has attended a trade or technical school.[2]

The Japanese blue-collar worker on average works 40 hours a week from 9am-5pm with occasional overtime work. The white-collar worker may work over 12 hours a day/60 hours a week and can spend the majority of his time working and commuting to work, as well as traveling for months at a time for his job. He rarely is able to have any time with family or friends and can be seen as absent in family life.[3] Research shows that the amount of time a person is required to work can have a large impact on physical and psychological well-being.

There are documented cases of karōshi (death by overwork)[4] and karojisatsu (suicide by overwork) in Japan. It is estimated that “more than 10,000 workers die annually owing to cerebral/cardio diseases caused by work overload.” Only a small percentage of these cases are that of blue-collar workers.[3]


  1. ^ Matsumoto, David. The New Japan: debunking seven cultural stereotypes. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press, 2002
  2. ^ Roberson, James E. (2003) Men and Masculinities in Contemporary Japan: Dislocating the Salaryman Doxa pgs. 129-130
  3. ^ a b Burke
  4. ^ Tamura, Takeshi.“The Development of Family Therapy Around the World” Ng The Family Journal.2005; 13: 35-42
  • Statistics Bureau & Statistical Research and Training Institute: Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan Statistical Yearbook, Culture http://www.stat.go.jp/English/data/nenkan/1431-23.htm
  • Roberson, James E. Japanese Working Class Lives: An Ethnographic Study of Factory Workers. New York: Routledge, 1998.