As the Japanese economy has grown stronger, the Japanese people have come to be known worldwide as hard workers. However, this perception of Japan often includes negative elements, including the view that Japanese are simply economic animals pursuing profit above all else. Yet, for their part, the Japanese feel that Western perceptions are distorted by misunderstanding about a number of aspects of life in Japan.
To begin with, the zeal with which Japanese pursue their work is based not so much on the profit motive. It’s based to Japan’;s strong Buddhist tradition. The act of working is subconsciously accepted as a spiritual discipline. Even today, this orientation lives on in Japanese companies, and this is a major reason why Japanese work so hard.
As such, the Japanese work ethic differs radically from the modern European attitude that work is basically an exchange of labour for money and that neither the work nor the act of working has any inherent value.
However, the Japanese work ethic has been undergoing significant change in recent years. While work is still held in high esteem, there has been considerable erosion on the motivational side. This is partly because the goals have become more elusive. In today’s slow-growth climate, extra work is not always rewarded by a higher income.
In addition, as the Japanese have attained relative affluence, their values have become more individualized and many people now place a greater emphasis on personal interest activities outside of their work.