Definition of “Black Company” in Japanese
ブラック企業 (black kigyou) literally means “black company”, a nickname for “an evil company” where people work very hard until midnight for low salaries. It is called “black company” because it represents 闇 (やみ, “the dark side”) of the Japanese society; it is those companies that drive a number of Japanese people into “過労死 (karōshi)”, i.e. death by overwork. Some people use this word more broadly to describe companies where employees work very hard for high salaries and sacrifice their social lives.
Furthermore, the term “black” is used by itself as an adjective to describe a hard-working company. For instance, you can say “あの企業はブラックだ” meaning “That company is ‘black’ (makes you work like crazy)”. You can also describe jobs/work as ‘black’, as in “官僚の仕事はかなりブラックだ” meaning “The work of bureaucrats is really ‘black’ (very hard).” or “コンビニバイトはマジブラックだ” meaning “A part-time job at a convenience store is really ‘black’ (very hard)“.
Examples of “Black Kigyō”
There are some well-known stereotypical characteristics of “black companies”, such as:
- hire a plethora of employees every year and exploit them as pawns
- advertise themselves as “friendly, accommodating” companies that treat staff like family.
- keep their office brightly lit until midnight every day
- do not pay for overtime hours.
- パワハラ (“power harassment”) is prevalent
Definition of “White Company” in Japanese
On the other hand, ホワイト企業 (white kigyou, “white company”) describes an ideal company where you can go home at around 5 pm every day and yet get paid very well. Similar to ‘black’, the term ‘white’ can describe good jobs/companies, such as “あの会社はホワイトだ” meaning “That company is ‘white’ (stress-free).”
If you mistakenly join an evil company, don’t hesitate to leave the company soon.
If you see a dodgy line such as “Our company has an アットホーム (‘at-home’) atmosphere”, you should suspect that the company might be an evil company.
“アットホーム” (“at-home”) is a Japanese-English word meaning “accommodating”, “friendly” or “homelike”. It is said that a lot of black companies use this word in their advertisements to allure credulous job-hunting students.
That company is really “black” (infamous for bad the work environment), so you shouldn’t apply for it.
Synonyms and Related Expressions
Synonyms: 悪徳企業 (an evil company)
Antonyms: ホワイト企業 (white company)
Synonyms in English: notorious company, hellhole
Related words and phrases: 過労死 (karōshi), ブラック (black), ホワイト (white), 企業 (company)
黒歴史 (kuro rekishi): What’s “Black History” in Japanese Slang
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