The spread of double-income households and the eroding concept of lifetime employment have forced Japanese companies to change their traditional ways of transferring personnel.

Employers are reducing their relocations or offering financial incentives to prevent their workers from seeking employment elsewhere. The companies also do not want to be known for forcing employees to change addresses because that could scare off talented individuals.

“The risk exists that job seekers and employees will stay away from certain corporations depending on how they reshuffle their personnel,” said Emiko Takeishi, a professor of human resource management studies at Hosei University. “Companies have to make a range of improvements to heighten workers’ satisfaction.”

Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corp. in October started a system of paying 500,000 yen ($3,300) to workers who are relocated within Japan.

The specialised incentive is added to the annual bonus following the transfer and comes on top of the conventional 100,000-yen allowance to prepare for relocation.

Around 200 of the financial group’s 4,500 employees, who are supposed to accept transfers nationwide, are ordered to switch offices and, as a result, are relocated every year.

“A certain number of rotations are essential for our branches across the nation because financial institutes must prevent fraud,” said a public relations official of Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking.

The extra compensation is intended to ease the burden on the relocated personnel.

“In this era marked by more working couples, we can no longer take it for granted that all family members will accompany fathers when their position changes,” said an official from the company’s human resources department.

“An increasing number of our staffers are forced to live separately from their families, making relocations much more financially burdensome,” stated the official.

Mizuho Financial Group Inc. plans to double or triple its lump-sum benefit for relocated employees in April next year.

The current monthly allowance of several tens of thousands of yen for such individuals will increase as well.

Other businesses are decreasing their mandatory transfers or allowing for more flexibility.

AIG General Insurance Co. in 2021 started letting employees decide whether they wanted to be relocated periodically or work exclusively in specific areas.

Those who prefer regular transfers are eligible for a monthly allowance of 150,000 yen if they are stationed outside regions of their choice.

“Concerns were raised within our company that it would become impossible for each division to continue arranging personnel reshuffles like in the past,” Shoichi Makino, manager of human resource planning at AIG General Insurance, said.

“Views toward working environments are changing rapidly, and employees will leave our company unless management alters its mindset,” he added.

A review of working styles was inspired by the spread of teleworking amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NTT telecommunications group in 2021 decided to promote remote working to reduce relocations, eliminating the need for transferred married workers to live alone or move with their families to faraway areas.

NTT started allowing employees to telecommute from any location inside Japan in 2022.

Fujitsu Ltd. in 2020 introduced a telework-based environment so that employees could live with their families and continue their careers even after moving to care for elderly relatives or for their spouses’ transfers.

According to a 2016 survey by the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training, 30 percent of employers said that most permanent career-track staffers face the “possibility of being redeployed elsewhere.” The ratio was higher at larger companies.

Sixty percent of employers said their personnel switches are intended for “nurturing human resources.”

Such workplace changes, however, can place a heavy burden on workers.

A study in 2022 by staffing agency En Japan Inc. showed 64% of workers would “consider switching companies in the event of a reshuffle.”

The rate topped 70% among those in their 20s to 30s.

Respondents were concerned that relocations would have a negative “impact on important events in life,” such as marriage.

“With more husbands and wives both having jobs, employees feel more reluctant to be relocated,” Takeishi said. “In addition, job rotations now have a smaller effect on personnel development.

“This contrasts with the postwar period of high economic growth, when many challenging tasks, including launching businesses in new areas, were available.” – Asahi Shimbun


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