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In “The Near Future of Employment in Japan” published in the March 2012 issue of Social Science Japan (Newsletter of University of Tokyo’s Institute of Social Science; no. 46), professor of Labor Economics, Genda Yuji aims to provide a “blueprint” for an adjustment to Japan’s employment system that can effectively face future crises, taking into account lessons learned from the latest economic downturn. As far as blueprints go, this one is rather pale of shade and sparse of detail, but this may be due to the stage at which this “Project for the Creation of an Employment System that Enables Lifelong Growth for All People” initiative is currently.
Nevertheless, Prof. Genda makes a number of informative observations. The major is what he calls a “market trend” of “quasi-regular employees” emerging to fill the gaps between the regular employees (I’m assuming he is thinking of 正社員) and the dispatch/freeter class. Critics have come down too harshly on the post-Lehman expansion of hiring of part-timers/contract workers in place of the higher paid—and more difficult to fire—regular employees (temp. workers were laid off in waves during the “Lehman shock”). This is not an unproblematic trend, Genda concedes, but there are two problems with blanket criticism: first, it does not actually correlate to high unemployment, and second, these critics lump all non-regular employees together, failing to notice the emergence of the “quasi-regular employees.”