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Abstract

Lifelong employment has been an integral aspect to the Japanese lifestyle since the 1950s. However, due to new attitudes among young Japanese, this tradition is gradually changing. More members of the younger generations are deciding on other career paths instead of the life of a “salaryman” or “office lady”. During the middle of the twentieth century, the younger generations of Japan began to participate in what some scholars, such as Kawasaki, call soft individualism. This soft individualism has gradually given way to expressionalism in the 1990s, resulting in a more materialistic, less group-oriented Japan. In addition, women are contributing to the shift from traditional Japanese work practices. Many Japanese women wish to be more independent, and in order to achieve this, they feel as if they must emulate the West, where lifelong employment is not as common. This paper will show the reasons why opinions among contemporary Japanese have changed. To illustrate this social transformation, I have surveyed twenty-seven Japanese students and their opinions about lifelong employment and their own futures, in addition to explaining my own observances while in Japan.1 I found that due to a shift in cultural values, as well as a series of economic recessions, the Japanese salaryman may be on the road to extinction.

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