For sure since 2000 the Japanese society is undergoing significant changes. Moreover I believe the next years will show even more developments affecting everyone in Japan. While globally most talk about a pre-Lehman shock society and the resulting changes afterwards, it seems to me the changes in Japan started earlier because the economy had been rather bad for a while. I believe the Lehman shock simply forced many locals to rethink further their spending habits and lifestyle, because a quick fix could not be the solution anymore. A recent article in the Eurobiz magazine (written by Itagawa Masahiro and Kosaka Tadafumi from I&S BBDO) caught my attention, because these shift were described as the five mindset trends for Japanese:
– Desire for stability and security: People on focusing on being “average, common and on par”, avoiding risk of taking up challenges (for globalization, leadership and other events in life)
– Loss of self-confidence: an increased tendency to avoid efforts entailing strict self-discipline or striving for what is considered unbeatable by others.
– Potential for the future: an increased tendency to prepare for the future instead of enjoying the present
– Return to one’s identity: an increased tendency to value what comprises the “Japanese” identity and “oneself” – such as one’s nationality, birthplace, living habits and rituals, educational background and experience.
– Expectation for a people-friendly, caring society: “gratitude” is chosen as the favorite word for three straight years, underpinning a sense to encourage society to be interpersonal and compassionate.
This longer period of instability had effects on the overall satisfaction with present life, which dropped to a new low, when solely 51% of the questioned described their current life as satisfactory (according to I&S BBDO). I believe another reason for the low satisfaction is that many are forced to review their life so far and what the future might hold for them. While abroad in a business slump employees tend to work harder and longer, in Japan in contrast a reduction in workload causes a decrease in overtime (paid or unpaid) and everyone has more spare time at their hands. These critical evaluations have manifold consequences.
I believe in the future for a Japanese professional it will become even harder to stand out or if a unique path is chosen, most likely financial instability has to be expected. Further instead of a proactive strategically planned approach for the future, I expect more rash emotional reactions, because more people will feel their back pressed against a wall and will take whatever necessary action to feel comfortable and safe again.
While the whole article might sound rather dark and hopeless, I don’t see a dark future ahead. Personally I see every crisis or challenge as a chance for improvements. It seems to me, the common accepted values are undergoing a heavier shake-up since 2000, presently the moment of doubt and insecurity for direction is felt, but I believe soon strong and suitable aspects of the Japanese culture for survival will reappear. Don’t give up on Japan yet, because an active review of strength and weakness is never a disadvantage.
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)