Note: originally published in 2015, but republished to coincide with the publication of The Mystery of Why Japanese People Are Having So Few Babies by Alana Semuels.
In case you missed it, the annual “Evil Corporation Awards”（ブラック企業・burakku kigyo) were held again this year and the winner for “Most Evil Corporation” was everyone’s favorite convenience store chain: Seven Eleven Japan. Yes, that Tonkatsu Bento box you love so much—it’s pure evil. Possibly.
Burakku Kigyo which is loosely translated as “Evil Corporation(s)” are an increasing part of the Japanese business landscape—especially as the number of lifetime employment jobs has gone from roughly 85% in 1984 to 60% at present. Many jobs have no permanence, few benefits, and employees are worked as hard as the company can get away with.
Since 2008, The Most Evil Corporations Award Committee, which is made up of journalists, academics, and labor experts in order to raise awareness of Japan’s harsh corporate climate, have held an annual award for that purpose.
The Committee on their web page explains the current situation quite eloquently:
Power harassment, sexual harassment, unpaid overtime, extended work hours, discrimination, casualization, short-term employment contract, etc…Japan’s workers have been ground down by companies that repeat these practices and sometimes even drive workers to their death. We consider them the “Most Evil Corporations.”
Although they have contributed to deteriorating terms and conditions for workers, it has not been easy to investigate individual claims or resolve such corporate malpractices or even to inform the public of their wrongdoings. Workers who are often deprived of their rights have no voice left or no strength left to stand up for themselves. Even if some extreme cases are highlighted, they never lead to better work environment or labor affairs due also to insufficient analysis of social and economic structure that create such corporations.
To raise awareness of such issues and to help build secure work environment, we established a “Most Evil Corporations” Award. The corporate raspberry award is at a ceremony featuring workers who suffered in nominated corporations and labor experts who discuss circumstances of such a social phenomenon.
This year Seven Eleven Japan was singled out for the allegedly exploitive franchise system, the terrible working conditions, and a failure to fully comply with past business improvement orders from the Fair Trade Commission in 2009.
The original order noted that: “Under the situation that Seven-Eleven Japan is at a dominant bargaining position over its franchisees… it has a scheme where the amount equivalent to the costs of the disposed goods at the franchisee stores is entirely borne by the franchisees.Under this scheme, Seven-Eleven Japan forces some franchisees, which practice or intend to practice discount sales of daily goods among recommended goods(hereinafter referred to as the “Discount Sales”), to stop such Discount Sales and thereby has them lose opportunities to reduce the loss of the amount equivalent to the cost of such disposed daily goods according to their own rational business judgment.”
For more details, in Japanese, please click here.
While everyone in Japan loves the convenience of conbini, there’s a dark side to them that is not fully captured in this musical ode to the convenience store experience in Japan.
Other runners-up include shoe sales company ABC Mart. Meiko Network Japan who run the cram school ‘Meikogijuku. Arisan No Hikkoshisha (a Kanto moving company).