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Sony Firing Folks Thanks to Modern Medicine

Illustration for article titled Sony Firing Folks Thanks to Modern Medicine

It was wildly thought that Howard Stringer, a foreigner, was brought in to fire a bunch of people at Sony. Japanese companies traditionally bring in outsiders to fire folks, and Stringer, a foreigner, was even that further removed from the old boys' network.

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This April, Kaz Hirai assumes Stringer's old job at Sony. He's a long-standing Sony employee, so the corporate blood letting is finished, right? Wrong, apparently.

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A new article in Japanese magazine Sentaku details the "underhanded" corporate restructuring that's apparently going down at Sony. Long gone are the days of lifetime company employment.

Sony is moving away from manufacturing—as evident by the PS3 and PS Vita, which are not made in Japan by Sony. Rather, Sony has outsourced their production to China.

Moving away from production means that Sony needs to shed workers and those in development. Sony is apparently concentrating more on its software and network businesses.

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What's more, during the past decade, Sony began beefing up its early retirement program throughout the company. This isn't surprising as many Japanese businesses started to do this, too.

Sony's personnel department, however, is apparently separating all low performing employees by different categories, such as candidate for retraining, candidate for administrative leave, candidate for an occupational change, candidate for simple desk work, etc. The rank for these employees differ, but they are all candidates for restructuring, and Sony's office of career development is apparently going through and weeding them out.

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According to the article, a Sony personnel department source said the company is even using the company doctors to target those for early retirement by using mental health conditions to help either force workers into a leave of absence from which they don't return or simply recommend that they retire early as not to worsen their condition. Sony's moves are being called "underhanded".

Kotaku is following up with Sony and will update this post should the company comment.

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ソニーを蝕む陰湿リストラ ~ 禁じ手の「産業医」まで動員 [Yahoo! Japan via 2ch]

(Top photo: Junji Kurokawa | AP)

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DISCUSSION

I'm really sad to see the Sony that once prided itself on making amazing consumer electronics is going the way of so many other quality hardware brands. Every American company that did this seemed to do well in the short run, but in the long run seems to be suffering for it.

Ultimately, I worry about the future of Japan economically when they have no manufacturing left.

To paraphrase one of my best professors in graduate school: "You're nothing without your manufacturing base. And when it's gone, getting it back is nearly impossible, because losing it always results in the loss of the educational and training apparatus that makes manufacturing possible in the first place."

Manufacturing is vital for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is that it is the foundation of the lower middle class, as it allows people with limited education to get decent paying jobs and be productive members of society. Without manufacturing, social mobility is extremely stunted and the wealth gap grows even wider. A wider wealth gap means more social and economic instability, which results in higher crime rates and political dysfunction.

You might think I'm overvaluing the manufacturing sector, but it is a far larger backbone to a healthy modern society than most people realize, and there isn't really anything that can replace it in an urbanized world.