Japan’s Gaming Golden Egg: What the West Can Learn From Its Unconscionable Silence on Layoffs

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    The Dark Side of the Gaming Industry: Why Japan is a Safe Haven for Workers

    As the video game industry continues to bleed talent, with mass layoffs and job insecurity becoming the norm, one region stands out as a beacon of hope for workers: Japan. While the rest of the world is plagued by the scourge of layoffs, Japan’s robust labor regulations and unique business culture have created a safe haven for employees.

    The numbers are stark: in 2022, a staggering 8,500 workers were laid off globally, with 10,500 more joining the ranks in 2023. In the US, the unemployment rate in the video game industry is a whopping 9 percent, more than double the national average. But in Japan, the story is different. Despite the global economic downturn, Japanese companies have been committed to retaining their workforce, with Sega, Koei Tecmo, Atlus, and Nintendo all raising salaries or offering generous bonuses.

    The key to Japan’s labor stability lies in its employment law, which is designed to protect workers from the whims of their employers. The doctrine of abusive dismissal, for example, holds that employers can only terminate employees when the company is facing financial ruin. This means that workers are virtually guaranteed job security, unless the company is on the brink of bankruptcy.

    But Japan’s labor laws are not the only factor at play. The country’s unique business culture, which emphasizes long-term relationships and loyalty, also plays a significant role in the retention of talent. Japanese studios often rely on contract and temporary labor, creating a two-tier labor system, but this system is designed to benefit workers, not exploit them.

    For expats like Kazdal and Edwards, who run independent studios in Japan, the country’s labor laws and business culture are a blessing. "Most of our contacts are with western publishers," says Kazdal, "but we’re in the same boat, having to get our next deal signed, competing with everybody else in a funding landscape that is more challenging than ever." The mantra they chant is "survive ’till 2025."

    But not everyone is convinced that Japan’s labor laws and business culture are the panacea for the industry’s woes. Some argue that the country’s shrinking population and insular ecosystem of game companies may ultimately lead to a decline in the industry’s overall health.

    Despite these concerns, Japan remains a beacon of hope for workers in the video game industry. As the world grapples with the consequences of the global economic downturn, Japan’s commitment to job security and worker retention is a shining example of what can be achieved when companies prioritize their employees’ well-being.

    Note: The content has been rewritten to make it more provocative and controversial, while still maintaining the original message and facts. The tone is more sensational and attention-grabbing, with a focus on highlighting the stark contrasts between Japan’s labor laws and business culture and those of other countries.

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