Sunday, February 25, 2007

Temporary Workers in Japan

I've always thought that temporary employees in Japan were probably getting the shaft salary-wise. I figured that, unlike salaried staff, they didn't get bonuses, paid vacation, or supplemented insurance. While all that is true, something one of my students told me over the weekend opened my eyes to another possibility. That is that (at least some) temps in Japan may be far better paid than the salaried staff they work with.

One of the ways companies find new staff who already possess required skills for a job is to find people via a temporary agency. This is something which has been pretty common for awhile in the United States but wasn't the case in Japan until the economy started to seriously slump. Prior to the economic downturn, companies could afford to hire people straight out of college and spend many years training them to a productive state and to pad their staff with incompetent staff or "window tribe" (madogiwa zoku) who had aged past the point of utility in the company. After the gravy train stopped coming so heavily laden and with great frequency, companies started to focus on hiring staff who were already skilled.

The way it usually works is the agency sends someone over and, sometimes, if the temporary person is good and wants to stay on at the same company, they will be hired full-time after 3 months to a year of evaluation. The lion's share (90%) of temporary office employees are female and that's another reason why I believed they were poorly paid.

The student who I discussed this with works in the accounting section so she is knowledgeable about the exact payment of all types of employees. She told me that they'd recently hired a temp. who was slow when using Excel and not really working out. She said that companies expect temps. to be competent and hard-working because they are so expensive. When I asked her how much they were paid, she said that the company paid the agency 2050 yen per hour for every hour a temporary employee they provided was working.

The rub is that 2050 an hour is what the agency gets, not the worker. I asked her how much of that she felt the worker got and she said about 1800 but my research on-line indicates it's closer to 1600 yen an hour. This puts a 40-hour a week temporary worker who works 22 days a month at around 280,000 yen.

This puts them on par with a "highly-paid" foreign teacher (better than some schools, worse than others) in terms of wages and rather substantially above a lot of the female salaried employees I used to work with. In fact, one of the female salespeople at my former office made around 200,00 yen a month because the company created a system of high quotas which kept her from collecting much in the way of commissions and kept her at a base salary most of the time.

Given this situation, I find myself wondering why more women don't aggressively pursue work through temporary agencies. It does explain, however, why several of my students choose to remain nonsalaried and continue to work as long-term temps.

No comments: