The Economy: San Francisco, Japan, Ho Chi Minh City

I wanted to write a brief blurb on the state of the economy, the job situations specifically in the three cities I know best about.  

If you read the news you know that things are not going very well for people in their prime earning years (my age).  We all read the news and the continuous bad reports that come out.  I wanted to share with you what is going on out there in this terrible environment.  

1. San Francisco

I happen to be in an industry where it is my job to continually visit the biggest buildings downtown.  It could be said that I have a pulse on the city as the companies moving in and out of these skyscrapers brings sales, or lack thereof, for me.  

Everyday I walk the streets visiting these buildings and never in my short life have I seen so many companies disappear in such a short amount of time.  I watch the documentaries and the bad things companies do such as Countrywide Financial.  In fact, I walked past the local Countrywide financial office everyday. 

One day about a year or two ago I saw that there were people dressed in suits inside yet there was a sign on the door that said “closed.”  These people were gathered around a very somber looking gentleman who, which I can only guess, was giving them the bad news.  Then it was gone.  

The second financial company that I personally saw affected was Charles Schwab.  They used to keep their offices in the most fashionable part of the Financial District.  They downgraded to Post street, then after a year closed that office as well.  They are still here in San Francisco but with less traders and offices.  

I actually spoke to a stock trader at one of my local watering holes and he was being transferred to Denver.  It was either that or lose the job completely.  One would think that being a stock broker would be a very lucrative position but I guess not.  

The second high flying profession I saw get shaken up were the lawyers.  One firm occupied half the floors of a skyscraper I called on.  One day, they were gone too.  This left the building only 30% occupied and was right on the outskirts of the Financial District.  

Lucrative positions aside, I’ve seen many other types of businesses close as well.  The local movie rental store right across the street from my apartment went on a slow decline for about a year while the owner tried everything from movie night to selling insurance.  It didn’t work and the place was closed.  You can blame Netflix for that, and I must admit once I joined Netflix I too stopped renting movies from across the street.  

Another closure was Virgin Records.  They occupied a very large building which is still unoccupied.  Hello Itunes.  

So, as I look around, I wonder if there are any safe havens anymore.  I hear the tech industry is hiring but as I read today’s news Cisco is laying off 6,500 workers.  But, in general things are pretty bad in the city and it would seem that even with all the stimulus, the work situation remains on life support.  

I find it strange that when I look at the stock prices jumping and the hordes of cash that companies are holding onto one would think the jobs would increase.  This just isn’t happening.  

Welcome to the new economy I guess.  

2. Japan

Most of my friends in Japan either hold a steady “salaryman” job which are moderately paid but suck up all of their time.  In Japan it is company first and family second.  Those people are on the trains around 6:00am and usually do not return until 8 or 9 at night.  

The only way out is to become a “Freeter” (フリーター) which is a combination of the English word “Free” and the German word “Arbeit” which means work.  These people do not want to join the soul sucking world of the Salaryman so simply work a lot of part time jobs.  

One trick the Japanese (and Americans) are starting to employ is simply hiring workers on contracts.  This means they do not have to pay you the same salary and benefits a normal worker would get.  Every time you are offered a “contract” position, this just means the company wants to pay you less and does not consider you valuable enough to make a full time employee.  In other words, the work you do could easily be done by someone else should you decide to quit.  

So, in a nutshell, there is some work in Tokyo but the salaries are really not enough to live on your own and raise a family.  There is an issue especially with the women who forgo marriage and live at home.  This gives them a bit of spending money but does not really help them to advance in life.  These are called “Parasite Singles”  (パラサイトシングル) and can be used for men too but is usually in the press referring to the ladies.   See this artice:  “Parasite Singles no longer can live on their own.” 

3.  Ho Chi Minh City.

This city is on the up and up.  I no longer live in Saigon but it would seem the jobs are plentiful in both Vietnamese companies and foreign ones.  The Vietnamese companies are learning the western ways of running a company but really haven’t gotten there yet.  

I remember being in Saigon 2004-2006 and some Vietnamese offices would actually close for a noontime siesta.  Life was good then.  But alas, the Western companies are moving in and have done away with this luxury.  Many of my friends there work for Western companies which offers some good experience but unfortunately the pay is not very great.  

Yet, the jobs are there which cannot be said for the Western world.  In this case, some would blame the offshoring of manual labor such as in the factories.  Having visited these places, I can tell you it is no picnic for the workers.  Those are jobs nobody should want to do willingly.   

Well, no real point tonight, I just wanted to get a few thoughts down in a post.  It seems like my generation is not only going to be less well off than our parents but not very well off at all.  

When I think of it this way, I really really want to blame someone.  Currently all the focus is on the political parties and what they have/haven’t done.  For me, I would really like to point the finger at what I would call the generational constipation that is the baby boomers. It as if this giant baby started out idealist, eating only small portions, then ate the entire buffet which it refuses to crap out.  

This is demonstrated quite nicely by the Tea Baggers which seem to be a very large grouping of retirees waving the American flag.  NOW they are concerned about the deficit and not spending money.  Very convenient to want to tone down Social Security, Medicare and other benefits they so conveniently enjoyed.  They have their nest eggs and just like a baby holding in its crap, do not want to let go of what they have already consumed.  

Bah Humbug.  

Author: Mateo de Colón

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! (^.^)/