Message from the President May.2009

a monthly magazine for our employee May.2009

How to Spend Your Time during a Crisis

Since the current crisis hit the global economy, debate about work-sharing has heated up in Japan. I don’t think this debate will get anywhere, though, unless it takes in the entire society, including consideration of the structure of Japan’s wage system. For instance, we need to determine whether the concept of “family allowance,” a unique feature of the Japanese wage system, should be considered part of the wages paid by each company or seen as a social mechanism to which preferential tax should be applied. Otherwise, I don’t think we’ll be able to agree on what constitutes the same wage for work with the same value.

So far, companies have been unable to spare the time to discuss this structural issue in the face of the economy’s drastic slowdown. Most major manufacturing companies, Meitec’s client base, have already practically introduced a work-sharing scheme in the form of increased off-days and decreased overtime work, following the reduction in output. This is expected to affect our earnings, because it results directly in lower working hours in the temporary staffing industry. At the same time, it’s likely to lead to lower income for all our employees because of the drop in overtime pay. I trust that all employees understand these things are being done to protect overall employment. At Meitec, we’ve also started to curb overtime work in our back-office section, aiming partly to boost productivity and partly to share the workload more optimally.

Decreased income resulting from curtailed overtime work affects the household finances of individual employees. But I believe that people should pay greater attention to the increased free time for each individual that’s gained. Overtime work is a common practice in the development sections of manufacturing companies, since they must meet tight delivery deadlines due to competition with competitors to develop new products, while overcoming problems that occur unpredictably. In some sections, it’s not uncommon for the staff to work on off-days. I imagine that previously some employees spent their off-days just resting, since they went to work early in the morning and returned home late day after day. I suspect that many Meitec employees simply didn’t have the time to devote to outside pursuits in a way that they liked. Now that they can finish work at the prescribed hour after a long period of life centered on work, some may be even at a loss about what to do with the additional time on hand.

It may sound like an overstatement, but how to use “time that wasn’t available until now” could change the course of your life. What’s at issue is whether you’re going to do what you wanted to do before but couldn’t for your family or your future, or whether you’re going to just idle the time away. I see discussion taking on how to spend free time. I’ve also heard that one employee has begun taking lessons in English conversation.

Reduced overtime work and increased off-days aren’t going to last for ever. Inventory adjustment and economic recovery will eventually return the business environment to normal conditions. That’s why I think people should view the current crisis as a good opportunity to do what they wanted to do before but couldn’t, instead of being preoccupied by lower income and other negatives. Neither a company nor a person can continue to grow without encountering setbacks. Even if a company succeeds in growing sharply, it may sometimes discover an unexpected vulnerability. So occasional adversity in the course of growth can serve as an opportunity for companies to identify and improve what they failed to notice when everything was going smoothly.

When you’re in the midst of a crisis, you tend to pay attention only to negative things. But I think that both companies and individuals can benefit from looking at the situation from a longer-term perspective and thinking about what to do precisely because of a crisis.

May, 2009