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Religion and Labor

For a long time Japanese companies were recognized as innovative role models for their western counterparts. High productivity, low absenteism and excellent quality were decisive factors not only for the competitive advantage, but also for an intensive examination of the Japanese working environment as well. Depending on the field, different factors were identified that supposedly made Japan different.

Correspondingly, management-related literature has concluded that the Japanese employee is per se more oriented towards harmony as well as more motivated and concentrated than employees in Europe or the United States. Within both labour and organizational psychology the new field of intercultural psychology has developed to describe different cultural standards. Very often a special religious character has been concluded: Sometimes researchers assume Zen Buddhism being the source of different work attitudes, another time it is Confucianism. Common to all surveys is that a deeper investigation based on the methodology of religious studies has not been undertaken.

This research project will concentrate first of all on an analysis of Western and Japanese sources concerning this supposed correlation: Who describes when and where what kind of relation between labour and religion? Based on this data, hypotheses concerning the scientific assessment of the role of religion will be made and evaluated.

The aim of this project is to develop a methodology that can be used to examine and describe the influence of religion on labour. By this means new perspectives on the relationality between the religious and economical field can be evaluated. However, the approach itself should not only be limited to Japan, but rather be universally applicable and suitable for offering comparable data. Furthermore, scientific findings should also be integrated into educational programs, i.e. for engineers, and will thus supply a religious horizon to the already existing approaches of intercultural communication.


This first phase of the project has been concluded by the compilation of an extensive database indicating the available literature and the publication of a collaborative monograph:

  • Bretfeld, Sven, Markus Hero, Robert Kötter, Eckehard Müller, and Claudia Romberg. Religion und Arbeitswelt: Eine einführende Studie am Beispiel Japans. SQ-Forum: Schlüsselqualifikationen in Lehre, Forschung und Praxis. Bochum: Hochschule Bochum,  2012.

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