The Social Contract Broke in the U.S. Years Later Than in Japan
What do the stories of Hidekazu Nishikido in 2008 Japan and Zaid Khan in 2022 America have in common? Quite a lot, as it turns out.
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In 2008, Hidekazu Nishikido, a 24-year-old agent at a staffing company in Tokyo, had just been promoted to help manage a small team. The new position meant a higher salary and a better title.
But it also meant working late into the evening, which left him less time to spend with his girlfriend. So he directly told his bosses that he was not interested in further promotions. “My job is important, but it’s not what makes me tick,” Mr. Nishikido said. (“Slacker Nation? Young Japanese Shun Promotions” Wall Street Journal, Nov 01, 2008.)
In 2022, Zaid Khan, a 24 year-old engineer in New York, posted a TikTok video about “quiet quitting” that has pulled in more than 4,500 comments. He noted in his 17-second TikTok video that “Work is NOT your life. Your worth is not defined by your productive output.”
“Quiet quitting” has been in the news only in recent months in the U.S.
But it has been a reality in Japan for at least 15–20 years. What can we learn from Japan’s experience?
First, let’s talk about “social contracts”
People are willing to work hard at a job when there is an upside for them in doing so. Most developed countries — including the U.S. and Japan — have had some form of a social contract between…