It’s everywhere. In anime, books, even real life. Almost every character out of any form of media holds a part time job. “Working!” is a manga/anime that focuses on the experiences of a 16 year old student’s part time job. Even in real life most of my friends hold part time jobs. Yet the ones that hold part time jobs are mostly my Japanese friends, and when offered to hang out, their excuse is typically “sorry, but I have work”. I have met a classmate who fills every available free time with part time job, even holding several different types of jobs at once at different locations. Part time jobs are seen as a sign of youth in anime, and is frequent among protagonists in high school settings. What is it that makes part time work so attractive in Japan that foreigners are also inclined to take one during their period of stay as a student or even before working full time?
1. It is seen as a symbol of youth
As mentioned earlier, part time jobs are a novelty most often associated with high school students, but also university students. Students are expected to work part time in order to earn extra money to spend, but also to make friends and have experience in a work environment such that it benefits their future career. It is also a great way to become productive with the few extra after school hours, as shifts can be as lenient as coming once for a few hours within a week. If money is not the primary motive for finding part time jobs, there are certainly other factors that contribute to the almost romantic aspect of part time jobs, like making friends and actually having fun while working. Not to mention the money can be used to go to karaoke, game centers, or purchases towards their hobbies.
2. Japan’s labor force crisis
Owing to several factors, such as aging of the Japanese population and the overall low fertility rate, the Japanese labor force has been slowly dwindling over the course of the past few years. As such, many companies face the crisis of being understaffed. The labor force, therefore, is forced to either lower the age floor in which anyone can start working, or raise the overall age of retirement. This means that jobs are more and more accessible to younger people.
3. Experience and Personal Growth
When asked why high school students want to work part time, most replied with “experience” as their primary motivation towards getting a part time job. In a questionnaire done by An Report, 57% of people aged 10-20 in Japan wrote that their primary motive for getting a part time job was so that they could get a good understanding of how a company works, as well as personal growth with the interactions between people of different statuses. Learning how to respect is also part of the motives why Japanese students want to get a job. 19% responded that getting a part time job will be helpful when they start working full time, due to previous experiences in the way the company works and how they should behave in a work environment.
The Japanese can be seen as hard working and passionate individuals. Most find their purpose within work, and as mentioned earlier, working is generally encouraged in the teenage population. The fact that working part time is the common after school activity for high school students contrasts with the general Western idea of after school. While many also indulge in clubs, the idea of working is such a noble idea anyway that it can’t hurt having one anyway. In many other countries that I have lived, part time work is not exactly the most common after school activity amongst students. Most would prefer to go straight home and spend their free time attending to their studies or hobbies. Living in Japan perhaps really gives you the vibe of wanting to work and earn money for yourself due to the culture that we are surrounded in.