Why Essential Workers are paid less in Japan

Why Essential Workers are paid less in Japan Jobs

We feel that we have clearly seen the jobs that are needed to live and make a living with the COVID-19. We have also come to call those who take on those jobs “essential workers”. The word “essential” means “indispensable.

What is an essential worker?

Most “indispensable jobs” in the COVID-19 disaster are those who are involved in medical care, but in this paper, I am going to write about workers other than those who are involved in medical care.

Essential workers are people in occupations that are essential to the maintenance of life.

Once again, we will identify what kind of profession the person, who is called an “essential worker”, has. To be specific, they are: caregivers; childcare workers; employees of financial institutions; retail store clerks (in convenience stores/supermarkets/drugstores); public transportation workers; truck drivers; delivery service workers; and businesses involved in lifelines such as electricity/gas/water; businesses that process waste such as garbage; cleaning companies; those involved in primary industries such as agriculture and fishing; those involved in the food manufacturing industries and sanitary products; etc. Of course, there are probably types of workers as well. 

These people—visible and invisible—are doing the work necessary for us to live our lives every day. The reason I am now able to write articles on my PC and upload them to the internet is that the telecommunications company manages it for me. Although water, soap, and hygiene products for washing our hands have always been essential, I have become more aware that they are a more important source; and then there is the food we need to survive. Vegetables are grown in the fields; fish are caught and farmed in the sea, and processed, distributed, and sold. This process is also essential. It is so obvious that we have never thought about it. I think that few people have the impression that the people in this profession are paid well for such an important job. Sometimes the terms “blue collar” and “white collar” are used to describe this type of work, but I feel that this is related to the fact that many people are called blue-collar workers—those who are engaged in physical labor.

Those whose jobs required during the COVID-19 disaster are also at high risk of infection which can be stressful because of the direct interaction they receive. It is a tough situation both physically and mentally. This has been going on for almost a year. In peacetime, I would not have thought of this. But now, in a time of emergency, is the compensation they receive really a break-even amount? I wonder about it.

Salary Structure

I read an article that begins with the statement, “Few economists have actually attempted to measure the full social value of a wide variety of occupations.” I have also read an article where I learned the term “youthfulness”.

And it goes on to say the following.

“There is strong support for the general principle that the more labor that benefits others, the less reward one receives.”
“The idea that people who bring benefits to society should not receive more compensation may even be a perverse egalitarianism.”

Reward Exploitation

What comes to mind when I hear the phrase “work for someone else is less rewarding” is “rewarding exploitation.” It can be said to be the idea that because you find joy in working for someone else, you will work for less. I feel this is especially true for childcare workers, teachers, and caregivers. The workload of teachers has been a problem since before the COVID-19 disaster. And the reality is that childcare workers are understaffed. A large number of children on waiting lists have also been said since before the disaster.

The job of a childcare worker is to take care of the lives of young children. Children do not yet know the rules of society. Therefore, unexpected things happen. Those who take care of such children risk their lives every day. I think they do not have a moment to relax. The news is that, this work is becoming part-time. The reason for this is to solve the labor shortage, but if the reason is to reduce labor costs, it is a sad thing. I think that the compensation should be commensurate with the responsibility of the job.

There is a skill to every job, even if it seems like a simple task. It may seem like a job that anyone can do, but in fact, I experienced it myself in 2021 that this is not the case. It is an experience that I cannot speak about unless I have done it myself. Fortunately, I have not been harassed to the point of suffering, but I have thought this was hard.