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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Temporary Agency Jobs in Japan:  Bad Employment Contracts or Bad Employment Relationships?


Employment through a temporary agency, or temporary employment, typically offers a greater degree of flexibility in working hours than regular employment, but with low wages, few fringe benefits, little autonomy, and unstable employment, resulting in such jobs being deemed inferior. Previous studies have often treated this work as similar to part-timeemployment in terms of status differences compared to regular employment. In contrast, our study examines regular employment, non-regular employment, and temporary employment by considering the effect upon job quality of the three-party employment relationship among workers, client firms, and temporary staffing agencies compared to the traditional two-party employment relationship and the employment contract (non-fixed versus fixed term). The results of a statistical analysis of data gathered in our questionnaire surveying employees working in clerical jobs in the metropolitan areas of Japan show that both the three-party employment and fixed-term contracts have many negative effects, andeach has negative effects that the other does not. Both three-party employment and fixed-term contracts have negative effects on fringe benefits and job security. Three-party employment has negative effects on job autonomy while fixed-term contracts do not, whereas fixed-term contracts have negative effects on wages and positive effects on working hour flexibility while three-party employment does not. These findings imply that the three-party employment relationship as a primary feature of temporary employmentprovides workers only with disadvantage in several aspects of job quality.

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