Development of structured employment systems in Japanese department stores in Hong Kong
The study is undertaken with an intent to understand the development of structured employment systems within Japanese retail companies overseas. A majority of existing studies on Japanese international management focus on national origins as a major source of the core-periphery distinction within Japanese companies overseas. In addition, the structured employment systems model incorporates skills, profession, hierarchy, employment status and gender as well. The four Japanese companies employ various employee groups by different human resource management practices — recruitment and selection, pay and benefit, and training and development - involving varying costs. These differences are reinforced by the fact that different employee groups are managed by different organisational practices —job assignment, communication and decision-making. Thus, employees are employed in different labour market systems. The Japanese companies possess four structured employment features - polarisation between Japanese and local employees, polarisation between local professional staff and local employees with low skills, casualisation of local employees with low skills, and under-utilisation of female staff When compared with the employment systems of the British company and existing literature, Japanese MNCs tend to polarise between Japanese and local employees, and under-utilise female staff because of the characteristics of Japanese culture. The polarisation between local professional and staff with low skills, and casualisation are mainly attributable to the sectoral/technological characteristics of the retail industry, and the contextual factors of the company. The ethnocentric management approach persists in all Japanese case companies. Although market pressures have induced certain changes in some Japanese companies to make fuller use of local professional staff, they have not introduced fundamental changes in the employment systems in providing equal employment opportunity for all local employees. It is suggested that this ethnocentrism could adversely affect the development of Japanese retail companies in a business environment requiring adaptability to local market and preferences.