On this little planet called Japan, there is a single intelligent and able entity called Salaryman – a man of great working potential, fatigue-resistant and quick like the Shinkansen on steroids. Salarymen represent corporate warriors, once respected for their potential, but now they became the laughing stock of the nation. More often than not, they get insulted by the today’s society and are called “corporate dogs” (“kaisha no inu”) and “company mules”(“shachiku”). Salarymen after the “Bubble economy” fiasco received a serious amount of constitution damage.
These white-collar workers have the following special abilities:
- Loyal to the company until death separates them.
- Works overtime every day. Weekends often prove no less than a nuisance to a salaryman.
- Has no initiative of his own and is highly unoriginal. He prefers to “go with the flow”.
- Wears exclusively a tie, suit and shoes, usually black.
- Carries out orders from his superiors without fault or complaint.
- Knows his colleagues better than his own family.
- He dishes out his stress on the “nomikai” parties, where he along with his boss and colleagues drinks heavily into the night.
- Dies out of stress or overwork in his late forties – the “karoshi” syndrome.
- Refuses at times to acknowledge his own existence, especially at work.
- Always serious, loyal and straightforward.
Salarymen have been for a long time the iconic warriors that helped Japan’s rise, that is until the “Bubble economy” period. After the “bubble burst”, they became nothing more than led soldiers, sacrificed at whim and blamed for everything. Whenever you see a salaryman parody, you may notice few peculiarities: for one, he always fears the reduction in both pay and work-hours; he cannot bear the possibility of not meeting the determined norm and sweats Niagara waterfalls in front of his superiors, shivering at their grim glance and thundering voice. To be ungrateful like this, is a mortal sin in my opinion.
Salarymen were the pillar of Japanese advance before the “Bubble economy”, while like dinosaurs before them, salarymen also started to dwindle in numbers after the mentioned period. The reason for this is rather simple: the new generations refuse to work in the same manner like their fathers, always seeking new opportunities and jobs, unanchored by a single one. They represent the voice of change, but they do not offer a conclusive solution in order to save the economic system from crumbling down. This tells us that change is not always a positive thing, since Japanese youth grows up without much trouble, sheltered from war (unlike many of their peers) with abundant allowances (80% of cases). In my country, if you start switching jobs, you’ll be soon switching homeless shelters and derelict buildings. I’m not kidding.
The most important thing that is tied to a salaryman is the syndrome of “karoshi”, or death from overwork. At first known as the “kacho byou” or the “Bosses disease”, this, I dare call it, social disease started reaping thousands of lives annually and has become a serious social problem that needs remedy. According to some, there isn’t enough effort delegated to the solving of this problem that looks as if it is being covered up to prevent financial aid and the loss of national face in front of the whole world. It would seem that the salarymen have became expendable. Here is some disturbing information regarding this social abomination:
- According to the official reports, karoshi “kills” 10.000 salarymen annually. There are some alarming reports that the number is in fact much more bigger, since the “unofficial” cases haven’t been accounted for.
- The victims of karoshi worked from 3000 to 3500 hours in a year and more than 14 hours a day.Salarymen most commonly die in their late forties.
- All victims die either out of high blood pressure and internal bleeding or heart stroke. In some cases, the victim falls into depression and commits suicide.
- Some victims worked 80 days in a row and had 100 extra hours during a course of a single month.
- Only less than 30% of the salarymen take the days off during the three biggest holidays in Japan, even during the “Golden Week”. Most of the salarymen die without using up more than 50% of their paid holidays.
- In 1988., the “Karoshi hotline” has been established by lawyers and doctors, and it received 135 calls on its very first day, and during the next two years, the number of calls had risen up to 2000 registered cases. The number of calls keeps rising.
- As the number kept rising and with it the world pressure, various Japanese companies have taken up measures to curb the death toll by using various approaches: prohibition of contact with the company during a vacation, mandatory usage of paid absence, construction of mini-relaxation centers in a company, shorter work hours and a bigger number of free days that must be utilized.
These bullet points summarize the salaryman – a man without life, one who lives to work instead of working to live and an individual whose love towards the company outweighs everything else, including himself. When a salaryman comes home, he is an empty shell, that goes to bed only to wake up and go to work again in the morning, among his colleagues who become his family. He only married his wife out of convenience and barely knows his children. This can make even stones to cry.
R.I.P. Salarymen. Amen.
P.S. People if you want a video about salarymen, have a look at this short film: