Japanese blue collar workers

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

Social status[edit]

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 workers are generally University educated, while blue-collar workers normally only have a high school diploma or have attended a trade or technical school.[2] Before World War II, most blue-collar workers normally only had a normal elementary school (jinjō shōgakko (尋常小学校?)) diploma or a senior elementary school (kōtō shōgakko (高等小学校?)) diploma. Therefore, blue-collar workers were contemned as "unscholarly" and "inferior" in Japan.

The Japanese blue-collar workers on average works 40 hours a week from 9 am-5 pm with occasional overtime work. The white-collar workers may work over 12 hours a day or 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.