Future unclear for dispatch workers

Management, labor at odds over plans to ban daily-paid temporary staff

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry still faces many hurdles with its plan to toughen regulations on temporary dispatch workers due to the gulf between the opinions of management and labor sides on toughening regulations.

A ministry panel issued a report aimed at reversing the government’s longtime policy of deregulating the dispatch worker system out of concern that the unstable working conditions that emerged as a result have led to social disorder.

The current movement toward tougher regulation was prompted by a decision to order Goodwill Co. to discontinue its business due to illegal practices it engaged in when dispatching workers, and a recent indiscriminate stabbing rampage committed by a dispatch worker in the Akihabara district of central Tokyo.

Ruling camp, opposition split

The ruling and opposition parties have agreed to ban, in principle, the dispatch of daily-paid workers. But they disagree about whether to prohibit the dispatch of temporary staff who do not fall within 26 designated specialist skill categories.

While the ruling parties are cautious about imposing a ban in such cases, the opposition camp insists the ban should apply to these workers, too.

In the 20 years since the Temporary Staffing Services Law was enacted, the number of dispatch workers has skyrocketed about 22-fold to 3.21 million.

In recent years, however, the emergence of a large number of working poor and people reduced to spending nights in Internet cafes to help make ends meet is seen as a serious social problem, and most of these people have been found to be daily-paid dispatch workers. Therefore, the government has had no choice other than to shift toward a toughening of regulations.