Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Part-Time and Temporary Employment in Japan

Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Part-Time and Temporary Employment in Japan

Article excerpt

Part-time workers represent a large and growing share of employment in Japan. Part-time employment increased more than 80 percent between 1982 and 1992, accounting for slightly more than 16 percent of paid employment in 1992 (up from 11 percent a decade earlier), according to data from Japan's Bureau of Statistics. Temporary workers also represent a large share of employment. Temporary workers hired directly by companies on short-term contract accounted for more than 11 percent of paid employment in recent years, according to Bureau of Statistics figures. Temporary help agencies, which are subject to considerable regulation, were prohibited prior to 1985. Although the number of temporary help, or dispatched, workers has grown rapidly since 1985, they still account for under 1 percent of paid employment.

This article discusses recent trends in part-time and temporary employment and the characteristics of these "nonregular" workers and their employers. It also looks at the role of the Japanese industrial relations system, public policies, and other factors in the development of part-time and temporary employment.

Data definitions and sources

The terms part-time and temporary employment are defined somewhat differently in Japan and the United States. Moreover, the definitions often differ by survey in Japan. Therefore, a brief discussion of the concepts of part-time and temporary employment used in selected Japanese surveys is necessary.

A number of periodic and special surveys contain information about part-time, temporary, dispatched, and other types of nonregular workers in Japan. The definitions of part-time and temporary workers used in surveys cited in this article are summarized in exhibit 1.

Most of the data used in this article are from the Employment Status Survey conducted by the Bureau of Statistics. This periodic, household survey provides detailed information about part-time, temporary, and other forms of nonregular employment. The survey has been conducted at 5-year intervals in recent years; the latest survey was in 1992.

In the Bureau of Statistics Employment Status Survey and the Ministry of Labor Survey on the Status of Part-time Workers, a part-time worker is defined as an employee whose position is classified as part time by the employer; a part-time employee does not necessarily work fewer hours than a full-time employee. In 1990, 20.6 percent of workers classified as part time by their employer worked as many hours as did regular, full-time workers.(1) The set of personnel practices that applies to these workers distinguishes them as part time. For example, in large- and medium-sized Japanese companies, regular full-time workers typically are given commitments of lifetime employment and the wages and promotions of these workers are determined to a large degree by seniority. Practices of lifetime employment and nenko (seniority-based) wages and promotions rarely apply to part-time workers.

The Employment Status Survey and the Survey on the Status of Part-Time Workers provide data on both part-time and arubaito jobs. An arubaito job is a "side" job taken by someone who is in school or who has regular employment elsewhere, while part-time jobs are held by those who do not have other employment and who are not classified by their employers as full time. Arubaito jobs typically are held by students; part-time jobs generally are held by married women. In practice, part-time and arubaito jobs are quite similar and the terms often are used interchangeably.

Several surveys conducted by the Ministry of Labor (the Survey of Employment trend, the Survey on the Diversification of Employment, and the Monthly Labor Survey) classify workers as part time if they work fewer hours per day or days per week than do regular workers. These surveys do not distinguish between part-time workers and arubaito. In the Bureau of Statistics Labor Force Survey, a monthly household survey, individuals are asked their actual weekly work hours. …

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