By Maria Deutsch
The temporary staffing industry in Japan is beginning to feel the
effects of both the economic recovery and the greying society. While
companies demand more and more temporary workers, it is increasingly
difficult for staffing agencies to find people.
The companies’ demand focuses on four main areas: technical specialists
and engineering, manufacturing, international trade administration, and
retail. While companies also hire new graduates fresh our of university
and train them for their needs, they need experienced staff able to hit
the ground running as soon as possible. However, temporary staffing
agencies have not been able to ensure continuous supply of such workers.
In order to continue meeting the demands of their corporate customers,
staffing agencies have become innovative. As experienced workers rarely
choose to work for temporary staffing agencies, almost all agencies
offer training for inexperienced people. Such training ranges from
basic business manners to English for trade administration to
specialised technical or IT training.
Training for Inexperienced Hires
Experienced professionals will almost invariably prefer full-time,
so-called seishain positions with higher pay and better conditions over
temporary staffing. People who chose to make a living out of different
part-time jobs on the other hand, so-called ‘freeters’, often have
difficulties finding full-time employment when they look for it, as
they lack specialised experience and business-world common sense. Some
temporary staffing agencies capitalise on the high motivation of those
‘freeters’ seeking full-time employment, and offer temp-to-perm
opportunities for those who finish training successfully. While the
cost incurred to the staffing agencies may be higher in the short term,
in the long term they are able to satisfy their clients and earn
introduction fees when the client decides to take on a temporary worker
as full-time staff.
New ideas in temp staffing sector
Numerous temporary staffing agencies focus their efforts on fresh
university and high school graduates, both in big cities and in the
countryside. They offer training and the prospect to enter large and
famous companies through the back door.
Better Conditions for Women
Other agencies again focus on women who left the workforce to raise
children. Often highly qualified, many women choose to leave their
full-time jobs when they have babies because the workload and hours are
incompatible with raising a family. When they return to work they
demand flexibility, short hours, and childcare support. Temporary
staffing agencies respond to these demands in order to have women
register with and work for them. For example some agencies have teamed
up with kindergartens, and others offer short and flexible working
hours, starting from as little as three hours per day.
Another bait temporary staffing agencies use to attract workers is pay
and conditions. Both are significantly better for full-time, so-called
seishain employees than for irregular workers. Experienced
professionals therefore tend to choose such full-time positions. By
combining pay and conditions more or less equivalent to those for
seishain with a more flexible work schedule, temporary staffing
agencies hope to attract professionals who are wary of the treadmill
and long hours seishain have to put in.
Temps from Abroad
A third approach temporary staffing agencies are taking is to hire
staff from foreign countries. The Nihon Keizai Shinbun (Nikkei) has
been reporting on several companies opening subsidiaries in the U.S.,
India, China, South East Asia, and Eastern Europe. The companies look
for qualified professionals, train them in Japanese language and
culture, and if necessary in technology, and then send them to Japan to
work for manufacturers and IT companies.
Whatever strategies temporary staffing agencies adopt, with the surge
in demand problems other than lack of manpower surface. The Nikkei
newspaper reports that according to the competent supervisory authority
violations of the legal regulations governing temporary
employment have been rampant. Companies and staffing agencies alike
will need to ensure compliance with the law, otherwise their creativity
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