The Wall Street Journal's China blog ChinaRealTimeReport has a post up about a Chinese restauranteur's answer to tightening labor conditions and the incresing mobility of workers: hiring staff with learning disabilities (E).
In this, the Chinese entrepreneur is well behind Japan in this innovation. The food preparation business, with its emphasis on repetitive, unchallenging tasks, is probably the major employer of Japanese adults with learning disabilities. It gives persons that would otherwise be unemployable a job, a salary and often independence. It certainly also reduces the burdens on the parents and the state, which would otherwise be charged with entertaining and coping with these otherwise difficult to mainstream human beings...and given the almost total absence of the practice of amniocentesis for decades and its rarity even now, the population of intellectually challenged is not insignificant.
Even major chains have experimented with introducing those with learning disabilities into their workforce. I remember the shock and then admiration I felt at a visit to my local McDonalds when I noticed that a young woman with Down's Syndrome was taking my order. The experiment seemingly did not work, for the girl did not work at the outlet very long -- but it was a worthy effort by an organization whose scale and output volume tend to consign it to the category of unfeeling corporate behemoth.
So when you hear in the business press about how inefficient the food preparation business is in Japan, keep in mind that it provides work not only to those living in the economically bereft hinterlands but also for those who would otherwise be denied the dignity of a job.