JILPT Research Report No.185
Polarization of Working Styles and Regular Employees:
Results of Secondary Analysis of JILPT Questionnaire Surveys

November 30, 2016

Summary

Research Objective

While the disparity in working conditions between regular employment (regular employees) and non-regular employment (non-regular employees) remains a matter of social concern, not only problems such as low-wage and unstable employment faced by non-regular employees, but also problems with regard to the working styles of regular employees have been highlighted. These include, for example, long working hours and overtime, the stress and adverse health effects associated with them, and obstacles to family life satisfaction, caused by relocation to distant establishments. As such, a more basic need to halt the polarization of working styles between regular and non-regular employees is found.

In light of these facts, this report outlines measures needed in order to halt the polarization of working styles between regular and non-regular employees, through secondary analysis of three questionnaire surveys conducted by JILPT as part of the Project Research Subtheme “Survey research on diverse ways of working in both regular and non-regular employment.”

Specifically, the report attempts to present smoother and more effective measures to deal with the three policy tasks regarding the polarization of working styles: promoting conversion from non-regular to regular employment, reducing the workload on regular employees, and expanding the system of restricted regular employment.

Besides these three, reducing disparity in treatment and conditions is another important policy task with a view to halting the polarization of working styles between regular and non-regular employees. However, since this theme has already been tackled by JILPT using a different method, it is not covered directly in this report.

Research Method

Secondary analysis of the following three questionnaire surveys conducted by JILPT in FY2013

  1. “Questionnaire Survey on Vocational Careers and Working Styles” (July-August 2013)
  2. “Survey on Diverse Employment Forms and Human Resource Portfolios (Establishment Survey / Employee Survey)” (January-February 2014)
  3. “Survey on the Present Status of Workload and Workplaces of Regular Employees” (March 2014)

Main Findings

I. Characteristics of the workplace and actual working conditions after conversion to regular employment
  1. Conversion from non-regular to regular employment may be divided into two types – internal conversion (internal promotion) and external conversion (external recruitment). Of these, businesses practicing internal conversion took more positive action to develop skills among non-regular employees (Chapter 2). The wages and levels of skills required to perform the jobs after converting to regular employment were also higher in cases of internal conversion than in those of external conversion (Chapter 3). On the other hand, businesses with a smaller wage gap between regular and non-regular employees were more actively engaged in external recruitment (Chapter 2), and in fact, higher ratios of external conversion were seen in small and medium enterprises (Chapter 3).
  2. There was a gender difference in the significance of converting to regular employment. Specifically, women were not only less likely to convert to regular employment than men, but they also had a greater tendency to quit after being converted. In fact, women converting to regular employment were more likely to quit than new female graduates were.
  3. The wages and levels of skills required to perform the jobs after converting to regular employment were lower than those of regular employees who had been hired just after graduation, but working hours were not always long. (Chapter 3).
II. Workload on regular employees from the point of view of personnel management and industrial characteristics
  1. Analysis of factors that determine the wage and scale of wage increases revealed that the style of personnel management for regular employees, and for young regular employees in particular, differs greatly from industry to industry (Chapter 4). This suggests that the types of workload that increase psychological stress on young regular employees also differ from industry to industry. In fact, long overtime hours arising from the volume of work and a sense of responsibility were cited as problems in “Education, learning support” industries, an inability to secure the minimum requirement of holidays and time off in “Accommodations, eating and drinking services,“ and problems arising from performance-based management in “Finance and insurance” (Chapter 5) (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Problems Cited by Workers in Connection with Workplaces and Companies (multiple responses)
figure 1

  • Source: Figure 5-2-4 of the Research Report No.185.
  • Note: Figures in bold show the industries in which each problem is cited with greatest frequency.

Although information and communications industry seems promising as providing employment for young people, there is also cause for concern over the length of overtime work for regular employees, a high turnover of young regular employees, and the high level of mental health problems among regular employees in this industry. The causes and effects of excessive overtime were clarified by the analysis. Specifically, it revealed that, compared to other industries, information and communications industry involved large “volumes” of work, as well as excessive overtime caused by the fact that the workers themselves cannot control these volumes; and that this not only reduces their work motivation but also increases the risk that they quits (Chapter 6). Again, the evaluation of individual performance has a big impact on wage rises in information and communications industry (Chapter 4), and reflection of performance in monthly income is a factor causing long working hours (Chapter 6).

It also became clear that the style of personnel management affects the occurrence of long working hours. Specifically, it was shown that the frequency of “supervision and management” of regular employees, the severity of “measures against regular employees given the lowest evaluations,” and other aspects of strict performance-based personnel management have an impact on working hours. In addition, it was also reconfirmed that workers’ inability to control the volume of their work leads to long working hours (Chapter 7).

III. Utilization and actual condition of “restricted regular employees”

In terms of job description, working hours, and wages, restricted regular employees were positioned somewhere between unrestricted regular and non-regular employees. Moreover, when comparing job satisfaction of restricted regular employees with that of unrestricted regular employees, satisfaction with wages, job content and skill development was higher among unrestricted regular employees, but satisfaction with working hours was higher among restricted regular employees (Chapter 9).

It was suggested that workers who have converted from non-regular to regular employment are more prone to find themselves in restricted regular employment – or, to put it another way, restricted regular employment could be functioning as a channel for non-regular employees to convert to regular employees (Chapter 3). Moreover, on analyzing job satisfaction among restricted regular employees, those who became restricted regular employees after converting from non-regular to regular employment were shown to have higher levels of satisfaction with wages, working hours, job content, and opportunities for skill development than other restricted regular employees (Chapter 9).

As to whether the existence or introduction of restricted regular employees in a company signifies a reorganization of the peripheral labor force or a diversification of working styles in the core labor force, responses differed greatly depending on the occupation. Specifically, restricted regular employees in “clerical occupations” and “production or skilled occupations” were strongly characterized by a reorganization of the peripheral labor force without any extension of their career path into management occupations; on the other hand, restricted regular employees in “sales occupations” did have this potential for extension and were strongly characterized by a diversification of working styles in the core labor force. In “hospitality and service occupations,” meanwhile, movement from non-regular employment to management occupations is continuously possible, and restricted regular employment is thought to have been introduced here as a kind of intermediate working style between the two (Chapter 8).

Policy Implications

1. Promoting conversion to regular employment

To boost the quality of conversion to regular employment, attention must be focused on the fact that systems of internal conversion predominate. Specifically, the career enhancement subsidy program and other existing systems should be used to further promote conversion to regular employment through internal promotion. Also, when supporting and encouraging external conversion (external recruitment) through trial employment subsidies, the job card system, which was created as seamless pathway means for lifelong career planning with describing job seekers’ professional and vocational training histories, and the development of vacant positions by Hello Work (the Japanese public employment service), etc., efforts should be made to expand access for superior companies and jobs which require high levels of skills and offer high levels of wages, as well as increasing the volume of such external conversion.

While it was revealed that women who convert to regular employment appear less likely to settle in their new workplaces, a factor behind this could be the low levels of job responsibility and wages given to female regular employees. Gender disparity in levels of responsibility in the workplaces of regular employees will need to be corrected, as will the associated disparity in wages, in order to amend the current situation in which women become trapped in non-regular employment and encourage women in better involving in companies and organizations.

It is thought that many non-regular employees hesitate to convert to regular employment out of fear that they would be faced with long working hours if they became regular employees. They will need to be provided with appropriate information on the working styles of workers converted to regular employment.

2. Reducing the workload on regular employees

Regulation of working hours by law is the main measure to reduce work burdens, and its necessity is beyond doubt. Even so, those measures are also needed to reflect differences by industry in the content of the workload and the mechanism whereby it arises, in a form that will reinforce this regulation. Attention should be given to the “qualitative aspects of working hours”, i.e. considering “in what way” working hours are long as well as “how long” they are.

To reduce long working hours and overtime, regulation by law will need to be augmented by ongoing research on issues such as introduction of new labor management techniques and their impact on working hours, and why situations in which workers cannot control their own work volumes arise in the first place.

3. Expanding the system of restricted regular employment

It was reconfirmed that expanding the system of restricted regular employment would meet the two objectives of diversifying the working styles of regular employees and promoting the conversion of non-regular employees to regular employment. To promote the introduction of the system of restricted regular employment, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare is making efforts such as conducting fact-finding surveys, studying the legal positioning, and gathering favorable examples. These efforts need to be continued.

Meanwhile, to clarify the impact of having or introducing a system of restricted regular employment on the careers of workers inside a company, the focus should be not only on the formal attributes of “restricted regular employment” but also on the reality of how the labor force is utilized within the company, as the background to this. This kind of aspect should also be taken into account when tackling fact-finding surveys, collecting favorable examples, and other efforts concerning the system of restricted regular employment.

4. The ideal image of the labor market

Figure 2 shows the image of the desirable labor market suggested by the measures discussed above to halt the polarization of working styles. Taking an overall view, we start to see a vector whereby workers engaged in jobs involving a heavy workload would decrease, while those engaged in jobs with a high level of job responsibility would increase (i.e. movement toward the upper left of the figure).

Figure 2. Image of the labor market drawn from the conclusions of this report
Figure 2

Click to expand (opens in new window)

  • Source: Figure Conclusion-2-1 of Research Report No.185.

Policy Contribution

This research is expected to contribute to the activities of the “Headquarters for Realization of Conversion to Regular Employment and Improved Working Conditions of Non-Regular Employment” and the “Headquarters to Promote the Reduction of Long Working Hours” set up inside the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

Main Text (only available in Japanese)

Research Category

Project Research: “Research on Strategic Labor/Employment Policies for Non-regular Workers”

Subtheme: “Survey research on diverse ways of working in both regular and non-regular employment”

Research Period

FY2015-FY2016

Authors (job titles at the time of original publication)

Koji TAKAHASHI
Vice Senior Researcher, The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training
Qingya LEE
Assistant Fellow, The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training
Akiko ONO
Senior Researcher, The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training
Tomohiro TAKAMI
Researcher, The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training
Satomi MIKAMOTO
Ph.D. Student, Graduate School of Social Sciences, Hitotsubashi University
Kazuya OGURA
Professor, Faculty of Commerce, Waseda University
Shingou IKEDA
Senior Researcher, The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training
Tomohiko MORIYAMA
Research Assistant Professor, Faculty of Economics, Shimonoseki City University

Related Research Results

  • Research Series No.134 Survey on diverse employment forms and human resource portfolios (Establishment Survey / Employee Survey) (2014)
  • Research Series No.136 Survey on the present status of workload and workplaces of regular employees (2015)
  • Research Series No.143 Vocational Careers and Working Styles in Japan: From the results of the JILPT “Questionnaire survey on vocational careers and working styles” (2015)

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