Helicopter Kuroda: A Bonus for Workers, Not Japan Inc.

posted by Lyric Hughes Hale on April 28, 2016 - 11:16am

This week the central bank of Japan continues its unprecedented adventures in qualitative and quantitative easing. In the absence of true structural reforms, the burden of boosting Japan’s economy has fallen upon the shoulders of Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda. While unconventional monetary policy, including negative interest rates and massive share purchases, has a diminishing chance of closing the gap on the BOJ’s two percent inflation goal, there are other measures within his powers that could move Japan’s real economy forward. They might just require Gov. Kuroda take on the moniker of Helicopter Kuroda, a nickname first applied to another central banker, Ben Bernanke.

Although Womenomics and immigration have been touted as paths to increased prosperity in Japan, there is something that could be done immediately for an already existing group of 20+ million workers. These are haken, temporary employees, who are hardly temporary; some have worked for the same company for twenty or thirty years. In contrast to permanent employees, haken are permanently disadvantaged in Japanese society on many levels, a factor contributing to Japan’s slow-motion demographic crisis. They are precluded for example, from taking out a mortgage. Their numbers have skyrocketed since the financial crisis, and according to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor & Welfare, all classes of these workers now make up at least half of Japan’s entire workforce.

How has this state of affairs been allowed to continue in an egalitarian society such as Japan? One might say that only in Japan would millions of workers put up with second-class status for the entirety of their careers. Permanent employees are well organized, and are not anxious to share their good fortune. They are so entrenched that it has been seriously suggested that it will be necessary for them to die or retire before this changes.