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Japan – Labour ministry urges easing of temporary recruitment limits

08 August 2013

The Japanese Labour Ministry has compiled a draft report proposing that temporary workers (known locally as dispatch workers) be accepted for all types of jobs for an indefinite period, according to the-japan-news.com. The new proposals would allow dispatch workers to work for the same company for up to three years regardless of the type of job. It would also allow them to work at the same company for an indefinite period of time; provided an agreement can be reached with the dispatch agency.

Under the current system, there is no working period limit for dispatch workers engaged in machine design, financial management, secretarial work, and 23 other specialized job categories. However, workers in other types of jobs can work for the same company for a maximum of one year in principle, and a maximum of three years depending on special circumstances.

Companies cannot currently employ dispatch workers for the same job for more than three years; even if the workers are replaced with new dispatch workers. According to the draft report, the current job-based restrictions will be replaced by limits on individual workers, with the longest permitted period of a contract at the same workplace increased to three years.

The draft report also calls for the introduction of a system in which companies can continue to employ a dispatch worker after the end of a three-year period; however, only on condition of approval by a committee, comprising the companies’ management and regular workers, to be formed under the new system.

A company would not continue to accept a dispatch worker if the office committee decided that their continued employment would adversely affect the employment situation of regular workers. However, if the committee raised no objections, a different worker could be dispatched to the firm for the same job.

According to the draft report, dispatch workers would be able to work for an indefinite period for all types of jobs, as long as a no-limit contract is concluded between them and their dispatch agencies.

The proposals are expected to help companies employ more dispatched workers in a wide range of jobs. Temporary employees would also benefit as they would have more opportunities to work for an indefinite period of time.

Approximately 20% of all dispatch workers are believed to have concluded contracts with their agencies allowing them to work for an indefinite period of time. For most dispatch workers, the period they can work for at the same workplace is likely to be limited at three years for the time being even if the system is reformed.

The report is scheduled to be compiled by the end of the August 2013. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will decide on details of revisions of the Temporary Staffing Services Law through discussions mainly at the Labor Policy Council, an advisory body to the health, labor and welfare minister. It will then submit a revision bill to the Japanese House of Representatives next year.

Deregulation of the dispatch worker system is one key issue of the growth strategy of ‘Abenomics’, which places priority on the creation of a highly flexible labour market. Under the current dispatch worker system, the contract term depends on the type of job. The system has been criticised because of the difficulty in determining whether a certain job is one of 26 specialist categories that have an unlimited contract period. This regulation has been repeatedly violated, as dispatch workers supposedly hired for a particular job are often made to perform other tasks.

Therefore, the Regulatory Reform Council has been pressing the government to reach a decision on radically reforming the system by autumn. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shown a willingness to introduce “limited regular workers,” which would set restrictions on the type of job, workplace and working hours.

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