Second Jobs to Compensate for Japan's Shrinking Labor Force

The nation’s largest business lobby recently released a report that it says shows the benefits that can come from allowing people to take on secondary employment. The lobby says second jobs can deliver a happier and more productive workforce while addressing some of the nation’s demographic challenges.

The report compiled by the Japan Business Federation, also known as Keidanren, focused on the way increasing flexibility in allowing people to take on additional jobs can address labor shortages as well as dissatisfaction with the country’s rigid corporate culture. Although just 22% of about 500 companies in the country polled last year allow staff to take on second jobs, the report indicates a larger take-up of the arrangement could lead to people staying in the workforce for longer.

The practice could, to some extent, address Japan’s shrinking labor force by giving workers new skills to potentially use after retiring from their primary career, according to the report. Importantly, the report makes clear it is focusing on workers who do not need to work a second job just for financial reasons, but rather it is looking at people who are dissatisfied and want a change. The report gives the example of an IT systems engineer taking on a role as an educator as a way skills can be transferred for the common good. Another case study details how a human resources staffer was able to help small regional businesses develop more advanced personnel systems.

Keidanren pointed out that there are obstacles that must be overcome for Japan’s work culture to evolve, including the issue of companies banning secondary jobs due to the difficulty in managing employees’ total work hours and potentially losing proprietary information. It said the upsides could outweigh the potential problems, however, with such programs able to potentially spur innovation when employees acquire new insights outside of their companies. For firms not ready to allow second jobs, Keidanren proposed in the report an option of “in-house side jobs,” or letting employees work in other departments of their companies.

The emergence of telework and more flexible employment arrangements driven by the coronavirus pandemic also can work in favor of these types of work reforms, the report notes. In a survey that drew responses from 487 companies last year, 78% said they do not permit workers to take additional jobs. Keidanren said it is important that firms study whether to introduce the practice depending on their specific situation.

In the Keidanren report released last week, which summarizes the efforts of 15 major companies to promote secondary employment, the lobby said many state explicitly in their employment regulations they will restrict second jobs if there are concerns about loss of confidential information or other types of potential damages.

Among the 15 firms, Mitsubishi Estate Co. uses third-party software to monitor employees’ working hours at second jobs to prevent overwork. Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co. sets a limit of 30 hours per month for additional work, and household products maker Lion Corp. bans working second jobs after 10 p.m. and requires employees to have at least 10 hours of rest before their next workday. Major mobile platform and e-commerce operator DeNA Co. has introduced a system that allows employees to allocate up to 30% of their work time to other departments if they wish. Mitsubishi Estate has also established a system that requires employees to devote at least 10% of their work time to activities other than their main duties.

(Source: The Japan Times | Pic: Office Work, Kenichi Takahashi)

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