Monday, February 20, 2012

Interview with Asahi Shimbun Correspondent

Last week I was interviewed by Wataru Sawamura (picture left) who is a correspondent for the Japanese newspaper "Asahi Shimbun". This is the 2nd most popular paper in Japan. He had also interviewed previously our Regional Equalities Convenor, Monica Hirst who is a NHS nurse. Wataru explained that he is interested in finding out more about the human cost of austerity in the public sector but also in Japan the public sector was seen as offering secure employment.  Many Japanese who work in the sector were worried about their future and what was happening to such jobs elsewhere.

I tried to explain the impact of housing benefit cuts in London which will result in the "cleansing" of the poor from much of London. Wataru understood this concern and expressed his view that one of the notable things about London is that the poor and the rich lived next door to each other unlike other more polarised capital cities such as Paris.

We also discussed that in the UK many public services such as the care and support of the elderly and the disabled are provided by the  third sector ("not for profit" Housing associations and charities). Yet currently there was a race to the gutter by some providers and commissioners of such services. Decent providers are being undercut by rogues (Rachman Employers) who win contacts to care for the vulnerable by sacking and demoting workers while also slashing their pay and conditions.  

Wataru had not heard of the book "The Spirit Level" and its praise of Japan as being the most equal society in the world with regard to income inequality and the benefits that come from this. I said that in my understanding in Japan unlike the UK if an organisation has genuine economic difficulties then their managers will usually act as leaders and volunteer for pay cuts before asking their staff for sacrifices. In the UK some care and support charities cut the pay of their (already low paid) staff and then go on to pay their senior management team bonuses for reducing such costs.

Wataru accepted that in Japan mangers did take their responsibilities carefully but in recent year’s most new jobs had been on short term agency contracts so many Japanese are very worried about the future direction that their society will take.  

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