Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Yasuo "Mr Vacation" Fukuda

That's the current Prime Minister of Japan, in case you hadn't realised (at least he was when I wrote this blog..he might not be by the time you read it, given the rate they seem to change). He's off on his summer holiday today. It lasts until...Friday. Yup, he's taking 3 whole days off. And he's only 72, the lazy bugger. So the country is left leaderless. No change there then.

Incidentally, I heard recently that someone here who was due to retire soon has decided (or been persuaded) to stay on for a few more years. Several staff members have died since I've been here, but off the top of my head, I can't think of anyone who has actually retired normally. [In contrast, back in the UK, it seemed rare to actually make it through to retirement age - many more people in my lab had early retirements or voluntary redundancy than a standard retirement at the appropriate age.]


EliRabett said...

The thing about beating your head against a wall is that it feels so good when you stop. You will appreciate this in about 30 years

Steve Reynolds said...

'So the country is left leaderless. No change there then.'

Better to be leaderless than to have bad leaders.

Steve Bloom said...

Well, they do have the U.S. to manage their foreign and defense policies (except for the bit relating to the senseless slaughter of cetaceans), so it's bad leadership by proxy.

James Annan said...

I'm not sure that the senseless slaughter of cetaceans actually qualifies as a defence or foreign affairs issue.

But since you raise the subject, jules reported having an interesting red topping on her sushi recently. She came home and asked me if the name "kujira" was Japanese for "horse". No :-)

Unknown said...

Some comments about retirement (not about vacation, nor kujira):

The situation of our research center is atypical among Japanese institutions.
(Maybe atypical among atypical, but it does not make it typical.)
I am not sure whether I know well enough about the Japanese society,
but, since no one else comes to explain it, I try ...

(1) As a background of Japanese society, seniority matters very much.
It is not easy to reject influence of senior people.
Also, the largest factor of the amount of salary has been seniority
(though this principle is being trashed rapidly in these days).

(2) Modern bureaucracies and modern companies (except those which are owned and still effectively controlled by the family of the founder) of Japan usually have strict rules
of retirement by age. The age was usually 55 in the 1970s, and it is
usually 60 nowadays. I think that it is a kind of countermeasure to (1).
From the viewpoint of management, salaries must not exceed a certain limit.
To enforce it in the (earlier modern) Japanese society, there had to be
an upper limit of age as an official employee.

(3) The principle of (2) does not apply to the owners of small businesses.
They retire when they feel then do not need to continue working.

(4) The community of politicians is generally dominated by much more
older people than the rest of the society.
There is no official upper (contrary to lower) bound of age to become
a member of the Parliament. Recently, some political party makes their
bound to become a candidate, though.
In the case of the club of MPs, "seniority" means how long they stay
as MPs, rather than their physical age.
(Recently the top level of Japanese politicians are dominated by
children and grandchildren of former politicians.
I think that just a few Japanese people are in favour of dynasties.
But when the local chapters of parties try to choose their MP candidate,
the least trouble-making solution is often a child of the former MP.
A side effect is that these people usually enter the Parliament at
a younger age than the average politician, so they can stay longer.
There are a few other young MPs, but they are usually too
eccentric to become a national leader.)

(5) Until recently, positions of professors and lecturers of national
universities were civil servant positions.
So they were no exception to the rule mentioned in (2), and probably
they still keep similar rules after restructuring.
It seems true that in old days there were often such cases where an
officially retired boss (professor emeritus) was still "de facto" boss.
But there was a trend of a kind of democratization especially in the 1970s,
and nowadays a professor emeritus usually does not have any power at all
(no office, no money) but the title at his/her previous affiliation.
This may be a situation of tyranny of the juniors over the seniors.
Unless very lucky, they are forced to stop research by age.
(I remember some professors around 1990 envied their colleagues in
some states of the United States where the rule to force retirement by
age is banned because it constitutes discrimination.)

(6) Our FRCGC (formerly called FRSGC) was created by a limited-time funding,
so there were no tenured positions (still exceptionally few).
The positions there were attractive for unemployed post-docs, but not for
anyone who already have tenured or tenure-track positions.
So JAMSTEC and former NASDA focused their recruitment to another cluster
of unemployed scientists, that is, those people just over the age of
forced retirement from national universities and government institutions.

Unknown said...


(7) As a variant of (2), the central government offices and those companies which have subsidaries make recommendation of earlier retirement, actually move to subsidaries, to their second-rank managers except the candidates of first-rank managers, because they have few first-rank manager positions, and there are no other positions which deserve those relatively senior employees.

(8) Subdidaries of the government is notorious as "paradise of retirees".

(9) JAMSTEC is effectively a subsidary of MEXT. As far as I know, it has one retired bureaucrat (the president of JAMSTEC), but no more. There are bureaucrats dispatched from MEXT before retirement, though. So I do not think it as an example of corrupted government subsidaries as discussed in mass media. But if former professors of national univerisities and governmental institutions (technically civil servants according to the former rule) are included, it may be caricatured as "a paradise of retirees". (But these people work hard, though maybe just in their own particular way. Those former bureaucrats are accused because they work much less than their salaries deserve.)