Japanese workers more unhappy, government report says

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese are becoming more unhappy at work, the government said in a report on Tuesday, highlighting complaints over pay, lack of vacations and a decline in morale.

Long known for being workaholics willing to sacrifice their personal lives for the company, Japanese workers, especially younger ones, are now placing more priority on time with their families and financial rewards.

The percentage of workers satisfied with the pace of their pay increases fell to 6.2 percent in 2005 from 15.7 percent in 1990, the government’s labor white paper said.

Those happy with their ability to take vacations was down to 18.3 percent in 2005 from 22.4 percent in 1990, a sign of the difficulties workers have in taking their full holiday entitlement as they face heavy workloads and pressure from bosses.

“Workers seem to want more personal time and increasingly want to fulfill their emotional needs rather than materialistic needs,” a health ministry official said.

The findings are a reminder of the challenges companies face in hiring new talent as Japan’s population ages and its work force shrinks, economists said.

“It used to be that companies could lure new talent with high salaries,” said Saori Tsuiki, an economist at Mitsubishi Research Institute.

“But workers now want something more, and this has been a big headache for corporate strategies,” she said.

Young workers have in recent years favored carefree lifestyles, hopping from one part-time job to another, or quitting full-time jobs after just a few years, Tsuiki said.

Analysts have said the trend bodes ill for Japan’s labor market in the long term because it would lead to a shortage of skilled workers.

Retaining older staff has also been a challenge for companies trying to avert a labor crunch.

Older workers were switching jobs because they failed to get along with colleagues or were unhappy with how they were being evaluated at companies using performance-based management, the white paper said.

Under Japan’s traditional lifetime employment system, employees were guaranteed promotions and pay increases as they grew older, regardless of performance.

“For an effective performance-based system, efforts are needed to improve the implementation of the wage system, such as making clear the basis for evaluation and providing detailed explanations for the assessments,” the white paper said.

Reporting by Chisa Fujioka; Editing by Michael Watson