Hardly a day passes by without initiatives to increase women’s participation in the labor market being discussed in the Japanese media. Indeed, one of the focal points of Japan’s new growth strategy – the “third arrow” of Abenomics – is the promotion of women in the workforce, and in particular the improvement of their access to leadership positions.
Accordingly, several recent initiatives underway in the public and private sectors aim to strengthen the women’s position in the labor market. Nevertheless, long work hours and lack of work-life balance are still major obstacles for women who want to pursue a career.
As Japan has struggled with this problem for at least a decade without getting significant results, we believe we need a totally new approach. At our November session of “Davos… in Tokyo” we discussed the issue in general. This time we picked for discussion a concrete solution proposal, hoping that having a second job may open up new opportunities not only for women but also for the men in the workforce.
In the fast-paced world and the era of drastic change that we find ourselves nowadays, the Japanese practice of “shushin koyo” (i.e. lifelong employment at one company) has already been rendered obsolete. In the future, more people would have several jobs over their lifetime and possibly would also pursue multiple careers driven by fast changes and new opportunities.
If we are allowed and encouraged to have a second job, this may lead to an essentially new relationship between companies and employees, as neither side would need to depend solely on a single contract. This may also open up new opportunities for entrepreneurship and bring more start-ups to test bold ideas.
With this in mind, we would like to know what YOU would choose if you could have a second job. At our next session, we will brainstorm not only about how to create an environment conducive to multiple careers, but also how to build a concrete action plan for getting a second job in reality. So please think about specific projects you would pursue as a second career! Think of as many specific jobs as possible. We want quantity!
Every year April marks a new beginning in Japan, so we look forward to meeting you in March and to discussing together this innovative and potentially important idea!
Video & Discussion
At Session #13 of the “Davos Experience in Tokyo” held last Friday, we discussed having a second job as a step towards a better work-life balance. We are pleased to inform you that the session was attended by a photo crew from the Economist magazine, as part of its coverage on women empowerment in Japan and the work of Ms. Ishikura.
The session started with an introduction by Ms. Ishikura, who pointed out that having a second job may actually be an important and innovative part of the solution for several of Japan’s long standing employment problems, such as women’s participation in the work force, the limitations of lifelong employment and the lack of work-life balance for both men and women in Japan due to long working hours. We proceeded with a short poll, which indicated that the majority of our participants thought the advantages of having a second job outweigh the difficulties. Some of the benefits pointed out by the participants in the general discussion included improved efficiency and productivity, greater network opportunities, increased income, increased independence vis-a-vis the primary employer, and better relationship with colleagues. A greater social awareness resulting from the greater independence, for example by having to file one’s own tax returns, was also pointed out.
Next, we proceeded with a presentation by Mr. Taejun Shin, the founder of “Living in Peace”, an NPO which supports microfinance institutions in developing countries and also works extensively with orphanages in Japan. Mr. Shin, who was the NPO director while having a full time job at highly competitive financial institutions, and who is also author of multiple books and is presently starting his own company, shared his experience in having a second job. Contrary to the popular perception of long working hours in the financial sector, Mr. Shin noted that working in a performance-based environment, he could afford the time of having a second job, by excelling in his primary occupation. As the biggest benefits of having multiple careers Mr. Shin pointed out gaining leadership experience, which is difficult to acquire at big institutions, and expanding his network, which would be directly beneficial for his new company. His advice to everyone considering having a second job or starting her own company was rather than try to plan everything in advance, to move to action faster, because hands-on experience gives a much broader perspective.
The session continued with a break out discussion. We had five groups at the venue and an online session, in which the attendants discussed the practical implications of having a second job, as well as detailed options and opportunities. At the end of the break out session, each group reported back its insights and conclusions.
We had a broad array of ideas for alternative careers, ranging from consulting and day trading to wine store and flower shop business. This reflected the two possible approaches to having a second job – using one’s skills and expertise from one’s primary career, or trying something new, which may bring a different kind of fulfilment.
Some of the second job benefits that came up in most of the reports were increased networking opportunities, gaining new perspective and experience, having a safety net option (both financially and socially), as well as being able to try new things without much pressure. The common drawbacks pointed out by all groups, included time management issues and the problem of how to sustain one’s motivations and commitment over time.
Internet and new technologies were recognized as facilitating factors by most of the attendants. An important administrative issue – the need to report second job activities to the primary employer and the refusal of many employers to allow second jobs – emerged as a systematic problem, which is likely to gain prominence in the future.
Another interesting point – the future potential of the individuals lacking big company affiliation and credibility backed up by big-name business cards – came up during our online session, moderated by Ms. Ishikura and Mr. Shin. Mr. Shin also made the important note that finding and keeping an alternative career is actually a process, which may involve some mistakes along the way.
Mr. Ishikura wrapped up the session with a poll on how many of the participants feel more encouraged to pursue a second job at the end of the session, compared to the beginning of the session. While some of the attendants noted that they became more aware of the time management obstacles involved in the process, the majority of the attendants said they feel more encouraged to pursue a second job.