The Wall Street Journal

September 9, 2002


Company Loyalty Falls
Out of Favor in Japan


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The legendary devotion of Japanese workers to their corporation has passed into myth, according to a world-wide survey on employee commitment.

Japan placed last out of the top 10 world economies in a company loyalty survey, said International Survey Research, a Chicago employee-polling firm. Only 50% of Japanese employees questioned intend to stay with their current employer. That also placed it near the bottom of all 37 countries surveyed. But other Asian regions weren't far behind -- Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines all finished in the bottom half of the list.

The results reflect a sea change in Asian employment attitudes. Before Japan's decadelong economic decline and the 1997-98 financial crisis, Asian workers were considered among the most loyal in the world, the study authors said. But the wipespread layoffs over the past five years have turned the tide.

"With many ... companies less able to commit to their employees to the same extent as they did in the past, so employees are now less willing to commit to their companies," said Roger Maitland, chief author of the ISR survey, the company's first ranking worker satisfaction rates world-wide.

The survey didn't chart how many people are actually leaving companies, but rather the desire to depart. On that scale, 55% Singaporeans surveyed plan to stay with their company, followed by 57% in mainland China and 60% of employees in Hong Kong. In the U.S., 67% of employees liked where they worked, which matched the average of all countries surveyed. ISR interviewed 363,000 employees at 40 multinational companies world-wide from 1999 to 2001. The survey results show that country and culture have a greater impact on employee satisfaction levels than company or industry.

"In places like Japan and Singapore, the social contract with companies no longer holds," said Peter Record, who wrote the Asian portion of the study. "Employees there are getting more promiscuous with their job search."

While layoffs fuel dissatisfaction in developed Asian economies, low loyalty rates in fast-growing markets such as China suggest employees there have more job-hopping opportunities than ever before, said Larry Wang, head of Beijing recruiting firm Wang and Li Asia Resources.

Write to Kevin Voigt at kevin.voigt@feer.com1

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Updated September 9, 2002

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