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The worst thing is that they are treated like they are things, not human beings.

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Ryoichi Miki, secretary-general of the All Japan Metal and Information Machinery Workers Union, referring to temporary workers who are often treated as inferior losers. (AP)

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I am a kind of temporary worker myself, working in a large prestigious university in Tokyo. The contract system sucks, and yes, I feel discrimninated against and I feel that people like these temporary workers are also treated as sub-humans in Japan. Given the social attitudes in Japan, this problem is particularly bad in this country. After all, this is the land of the outcasts, the Burakumin, the Ainu - people who are different, either in looks or class or status, are treated badly in this country. "Human Rights" is a joke here. The current, soon to go LDP Titanic government does nothing for people like these, and nothing for people like me either.

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On the basis of what I have seen at my workplace, I have to agree with this statement. It's so wrong - they work just as hard, and their work is quite clearly necessary, otherwise the organization wouldn't feel the need to hire them.

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"I'm leaving on a jet plane, don't know if I'll be back again"....

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realist, I'm kind of in between on this one.

on the one hand I feel people should generally treat each other with respect and kindness, and those unable to take care of themselves should be cared for by society. on the other, where is the sense of being responsible for your own welfare?

It's kind of like the Nova teachers with a twist. temporary workers generally have made a bunch of risky or bad choices to get themselves where they are today. they've been working temp because maybe they didn't study a trade in school or didn't think they needed school(despite the numerous societal messages that they do). Or maybe they didn't want the hassle of working long hours, or wanted to keep their options open, or a number of other self-serving reasons, so they turned down full-time offers. believe me, many, many have done so. the company hired them for their own self-serving reasons, of course, too. but such is business, no matter what country you live in. in what country is employment a right?

I don't know about your personal situation, but we have all made choices to get where we are, no? i know i have. i've usually gone the safe route, and am glad that i did.

I wouldn't say human rights in Japan is a joke, just look at all the other industrialized countries now laying off workers left and right, far more than in japan.

Many (not all) temp workers have wanted to have their cake and eat it too, and are now reaping something else. I feel bad for the ones that really had no choice, but they are in the minority. for the others, i say why didn't you prepare for such a day?

by no fault of their own, should people unable to take care of themselves be lumped in with the bad decision-makers among us? i, for one, don't think so.

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"temporary workers generally have made a bunch of risky or bad choices to get themselves where they are today. they've been working temp because maybe they didn't study a trade in school or didn't think they needed school(despite the numerous societal messages that they do)."

Hi Sydenham,

I understand that people must be responsible for themselves and should take the advantages of education that are offered to them. I further understand that the state cannot be a parent to its citizens, and should only have a duty to provide care for people who are incapable of providing it for themselves through no fault of their own (the very young or very old, the handicapped, or injured veterans, etc). I think most people accept this as the best way to ensure a prosperous and functioning society.

However, we MUST accept the fact that even if ALL of us had the requisite academic ability and inclination, studied hard, went to university, earned a degree and found professional jobs, we would still need people to work in our factories, convenience stores, and fast-food restaurants; we would still need people to work as cleaners and street-sweepers. I tried to make that point in my earlier post. In an industrialized society, or any society, I guess, there will always be higher status and lower status jobs. Simply because a job is lower status, does that mean the person doing it does not deserve some measure of stability and protection? Or are we to protect only those who "made it" to the relative safety of professional work? We want a stable society, right? That means recognizing that low-paid workers are doing jobs that are NECESSARY to our economy and shouldn't be treated as pieces of dispensable equipment; it will lead to the creation of a huge underclass and social unrest. I'm not suggesting they be paid the same wages as a brain surgeon; I'm suggesting that they not be exposed to exploitative labour practices.

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This is a more eloquent explanation of what I tried to say above, from GWDailleult in response to another article about laid-off temp workers.

"Simple. You can't eliminate the bottom rung of the ladder just by telling people they shouldn't be on the bottom rung of the ladder. The ladder has a bottom rung and somebody has to be on it, unless of course you want to go communist. And if you don't want government supporting people, then that rung better be strong." - GWDailleult.

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Hi Mayuki, yeah, I agree with what you're saying. but I actually think we're talking about different sectors of the economy.

low-paid service sector jobs by nature are part-time, generally speaking, but have longer term job security, if they want it. convenience store clerks are a prime example of this.

the manufacturing industry in Japan, on the other hand, is a slave to every whim of the export economy. people who sign up for temp jobs in this sector know full well what they're getting into. It's almost the equivalent of seasonal work. so to turn around and complain about the hand that they technically dealt themselves, is either disingenuous, or just plain whiny.

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I don't know that temp workers have done anything to "get themselves into the situation." I know of a lot of temp engineers or temp to hire engineers. These guys work just as hard, or harder, for a lot fewer benefits and certainly less money. Most have been thrown to the curb in this downturn.

The system of "employment for life" has really changed during the lost years. It's not that companies don't try to keep the full timers but that they have been doing a lot of new hiring of temps at a lot of different levels. These people aren't just line workers.

I agree with the quote completely.

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By "thrown to the curb", you mean "fired." Nothing more and nothing less. Whether this is a permanent firing or not, nobody knows. The economy could pick up again, and they could get their temporary jobs back, or it could be an omen of the demise of the whole industry.

If they don't enjoy the temporary nature of their jobs, maybe they shouldn't be in that business. I don't understand why a person who signs up for a "temporary" position is disappointed when it turns out to be just that: temporary.

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I don't think people "sign up" for this type of thing. They are not given a choice of the matter. There is no "permanent job" and "temporary job" list. This is the company trying to get around paying the real cost of hiring the labour it needs. Nothing more and nothing less. They don't want to pay the benefits that are attached with full time labour. Or, they are hiring foreign workers and feel no need to treat them as equals. Tis the way of the corporation at work here.

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@sydeham: The main problem is that your argument, while a good one, presupposes that we all have the same flexibility in choice-making and therefore are equally responsible for our lot in life. We do not. People are not born with the same potential by no fault of their own nor do they have the chance to expand whatever potential they are born with by pursuing a variety of educational options. Many people have very narrow selections to make because of their social or economic situation.

The conservative argument is always that people should be responsible for themselves, but that argument is made by people for whom life has offered up a variety of opportunities and who believe others could have made the same choices as they if they wanted to or worked hard enough. Not everyone can do what the people who find themselves in the most secure and comfortable positions in life have done. Sometimes people find they're at the bottom with no way to climb up.

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Ok guys, don't get me wrong on this. I'm not saying that temporary work positions are a good thing. I've always been against this trend in employers' behavior.

However, what changed my opinion about being one-sided in favor of workers, has been the trend of young people of not having ambition, or holding on to standards and dreams that are unattainable. Even with the market in the tank, there is still a surplus of decent-paying work, that just happen not to be in the manufacturing sector. It's a job-searcher's market out there for those with a little post-secondary education and a will to live or put up with the Japanese salary man lifestyle. It seems that there is very little wiggle room between no job and too much job, but the work is there. That sucks, I know, but that's the economy talking. We have to deal with it. Would it be better to ship off the full-time jobs to developing countries too? Companies have to be viable, in order to provide any jobs at all.

I saw this piece on NHK presented in a pretty one-sided manner sympathetic toward the plight of temp workers. One guy who had been fired was complaining about how tough it was now that he had been fired. I was with him until he said he had turned down full-time offers in the past, in order to work temp at his dream company and have a shot at becoming full-time there, only to be axed when the market went sour.

This is what I'm getting at. Not the people who have no choices in their lives. But then again, even they are very few in Japan. Public education is free and compulsory until the age of 15. Job training can be got for very little. Again, there is a surplus of jobs out there. Farms are closing left and right for lack of workers.

If people want money, then they should suck it up. Scrounge for work. retrain for work. sacrifice for work. work a job they hate. put aside their dreams for work. The number of people out there really doing what they want to be doing is a lot fewer than we are led to believe.

This mentality of people picking and choosing during the good times, and complaining during the hard times is, I think, a symptom of just how spoiled we have become in industrialized nations.

This is what I think about MOST (but not all) temp workers. On the other hand, I love to diss overpaid corporate management too. I'm just trying to get across why the above quote should be taken with a heavy grain of salt.

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Excellent post sydenham. I think a lot of the problem is all from inaka folks thinking that they'll move to the city and get lucky. Instead of moving back home to live with folks and retrain or get some training they are chancing it by staying in the cities. Hard to feel sorry for someone who does have a family who is willing to help but refuses it.

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