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2008年12月12日 (金)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 11(IHT/Asahi: December 12,2008)

EDITORIAL: Job cuts at Sony


The waves of the global recession stemming from the U.S. financial crisis have reached Japanese shores.


Sony Corp. has announced plans for the greatest work force reduction among domestic companies--more than 16,000 jobs over a period of slightly over a year.

The cuts will affect 8,000 full-time employees, or 5 percent of the electronics giant's 160,000 full-time employees at its head office and factories here and overseas. More than 8,000 nonregular employees, including dispatch and contract workers, will also lose their jobs at Sony.


Sony and other domestic companies are facing the triple problem of a global downturn in consumption, the rising yen and falling stock prices. We can understand, to some extent, that Sony is trying to restructure itself to survive. However, given Sony's influence, we fear its move could trigger job cuts across the entire industry.



It is still fresh in our minds that Sony's forecast for a significant drop in earnings caused the benchmark Nikkei 225 index to nose-dive five years ago. The situation gave rise to the term "Sony shock." This time, too, the job cuts could trigger the employment version of a Sony shock.


Toyota Motor Corp. also plans to slash 3,000 jobs, mostly seasonal workers. Including Toyota, 12 major domestic automakers plan to let go more than 10,000 workers.


Cutbacks by such industries as automobile and electronics that employ a large number of people, including those who work for related industries, could trigger a chain reaction of job cuts on a major scale.


In the last few years, the recovery of the nation's businesses has been supported by exports to the United States and newly emerging markets, such as China. Since demand is shrinking in those markets, it is not unreasonable for industries to brace themselves for a further deterioration of the economy.


The management decisions of the individual companies may be reasonable. But if the move to cut jobs spreads across all industries, the streets would be flooded with jobless people. Insecurities over employment would cool consumption and cause Japan's economy to sink even further.


There are also signs that companies are trying to use the global recession as an excuse to hastily shut down unprofitable sections. It is natural that Sony's announcement prompted Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura to say, "While adjusting employment is a means of management, companies must not abuse the practice."


Ten years ago, when Toyota was downgraded by a U.S. credit rating agency on grounds "the maintenance of lifetime employment will weaken its competitiveness," the automaker strongly objected, and the situation led to controversy.


Five years later, the credit rating agency re-evaluated Toyota's management style, including lifetime employment, and the automaker recovered its top rating.


Employment is not a "regulating valve" of company management. Therefore, companies must refrain from thoughtlessly cutting jobs. Protecting employment as a corporate social responsibility used to be a good tradition of "Japanese-style management."


Of course, if companies' performances decline and they go belly-up, there would be no jobs. Still, there must be things that employers can do before slashing their work forces.


Sony made its name by putting pioneering products on the market. We urge it to once again develop new products and business areas to create jobs. Instead of just protecting jobs, employers must create new ones. This new Japanese-style management is needed.


Now is the time for Japanese employers to show their mettle.



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