An Action Research Proposal for Enhanced Integration of Filipino Employees into an Aging Japanese Workforce

Kunitachi, Hajime
(2021) An Action Research Proposal for Enhanced Integration of Filipino Employees into an Aging Japanese Workforce. Doctor of Business Administration thesis, University of Liverpool.

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The pace of workforce decline in Japan is accelerating while its population is shrinking. Such a rapidly aging population has a direct impact on economic competitiveness, which requires the need to address the ensuing labor shortage. Although Japan’s imbalanced population could be rectified through policy to increase immigration, Japanese companies resist hiring foreign workers because immigration has long been taboo as many Japanese prize Japanese identity, ethnic homogeneity and the notion of an island country (shimaguni) culture. Moreover, the Japanese manufacturers do not think that the population decline is a serious issue. Instead, many take a short-term approach by bringing in thousands of foreign workers to help cut labor costs and send them back after their contracts are over. Therefore, the Japanese state finds it difficult to balance its conservative views on immigration although there is a desperate need for younger and skilled workers to boost the Japanese economy. Once a cornerstone of the economy, the paternalistic relationship between Japan’s companies and their salaried employees is also crumbling although the lifetime employment system continues to play an important role in their managerial system. Japanese companies tend to use a patriarchal approach to management, which requires employees showing stronger commitment and loyalty to company goals. As the system is gradually shifting to a neoliberal system, the Japanese organizations face a number of challenges. As an example, my company does business in the Philippines, operates under a patriarchal management system, and, as a result, does not function well within the current global economy. This thesis addresses a research gap in the literature in how the traditional Japanese organization can adapt and compete on a global scale by integrating Filipino employees. In support of this thesis, an Action Research (AR) was conducted at the Manila office of our company. The AR resulted in developing methods to improve the company’s practice and find solutions for the current organizational problems in the Filipino context, in search of gradually shaping a different organizational culture. The AR was designed in four stages to explore a distinct ontology around four empirical questions; (a) What do the Filipinos want? (b) How does that compare with our current practice? (c) What improvements can be made and, (d) What happened? In terms of research methodology, the first AR Cycle invited 140 participants from the Pasig Institute of Science and Technology (PCIST) to understand the character and desires of the Filipino workforce. The second AR cycle analyzed these responses to compare with current practice and decide if there is room for improvement. Finally, the third and fourth cycles planned, acted, observed and evaluated different context-specific actions to enable the development of actionable knowledge to improve organizational practices. The AR results demonstrate that (a) there are serious communication problems between the Japanese and Filipino employees- and it is not from linguistic barriers- but from a traditional Japanese pessimism that cannot effectively communicate with the Filipino optimism, (b) there is an urgent need of orientation and nurturing among Filipino employees because of their numerous violations of the Japanese corporate spirit although perceived that the practice of increased individuality may have improved organizational practice, (c) there is an issue of commitment among Filipino employees, as they would have become quite disappointed about the patriarchal approach of the Japanese company, and (d) there is a serious concern for material success and rewards among Filipino employees. This thesis argues that the employment of Filipinos can strengthen the Japanese economy if there is increased awareness about Japanese organizational practices and implementation of a proper screening process to ensure the selected candidates can cope with the challenges of a foreign corporate environment. My narrative suggests that the employment of Filipinos without any understanding about the organizational context may result in high education costs, an imbalance in skills, and increases quality control risks. However, both the pros and cons of Filipino employees could help a Japanese organization to improve its practice and reconsider some of its basic assumptions, which are rooted in the Japanese corporate value system. Nevertheless, as the Japanese companies are driven by a pessimistic cultural thought, they should be mindful about the positive potential of optimistic thoughts and adopt a more individual-oriented approach to remain competitive in an increasingly global economy. What Japanese companies might have been doing wrong is the treatment of “culture” as a separate entity to create a unique Japanese image based on a myth of homogeneity as the key of their success. This thesis suggests that the positive potential of a “collective organizational system” shall be first understood and embraced by the Japanese workforce, because the lack of such awareness might be the main cause of the economic stagnation that has resulted in Japanese companies to battle a perpetual-catch up syndrome. Finally, the AR cycles also show that the co-existence of both individualistic and collectivist values injures relationships and wellbeing at Japanese organizations. Consequently, it requires a self-reflection on the theory and practice of Japanese cultural relativism and crumbling corporate paternalism. For this reason, this paper proposes a transformation from a hard work/unconditional devotion (ganbaru) to subjective easing with both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards offered to both Japanese and Filipino employees as a new firm-as-family concept. This could increase on- and off-screen skills of all. This thesis also argues that the problem is not cultural- but rather personal. The narrative suggests that some people may be resistant to change and reluctant to adopt a new managerial structure and we may not be able to control each individual and their actions. If Japan is to remain economically competitive, it must first transform the patriarchal-based managerial environment to one that allows every individual to search for and attain a self-concordant goal.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Business Administration)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Japan, Philippines, Action Research, Aging Population, Graying Population, High- and Low-context culture, Culture Transformation, Society Transformation, Integration of Filipino workers, Japanese company transformation, Specified Skilled Workers (SSW), Technical Intern Training Program (TITP), Japan organizational management, Japanese management transformation
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Management
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2021 14:58
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2023 21:35
DOI: 10.17638/03131264
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