Source data comes from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication (Table 4).
The chart illustrates the share of the Japanese labor force that is considered employed as regular status or as temporary and daily status. Starting in 1996, the share of temporary or daily workers has been rising, from 10.7% in 1996 to 13.7% in 2008.
The divergence of jobs away from regular status and toward temporary or daily status is particularly hard on the labor force during an economic contraction. First, the temporary workers are laid off first. In fact, 125,000 of the 131,000 layoffs since October (through December) were from the temporary category. This suggests that the share of full time workers rose in 2008 with the unemployment rate. Second, the temporary and daily employees often are not insured against cyclical factors that cause job loss (i.e., recessions).
From the International Herald Tribune, there has been a shift in the composition of the labor force: As never before, the global downturn has driven home how a decade of economic transformation has eroded Japan's gentler version of capitalism, in which companies once laid off employees only as a last resort.
"This recession has opened the nation's eyes to its growing social inequalities," said Masahiro Abe, a professor at Dokkyo University who specializes in labor relations. "There is a whole population of workers who are outside the traditional support net."
Until a decade ago, nonregular workers accounted for less than a quarter of Japan's total work force, and included subcontractors and others outside the lifetime employment system as well as students or homemakers working part-time jobs at restaurants or convenience stores.
But the number of nonregular workers took off after an easing of labor laws in 1999 and again in 2004 allowed temporary workers to work on factory lines and in other jobs once largely restricted to full-time workers. During Japan's economic recovery in this decade, companies added millions of less expensive temporary employees while continuing to reduce overall numbers of full-time staff....
...According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Japan spends about 0.3 percent of its gross domestic product on unemployment benefits, far below Western European countries and about the same as the United States, which tolerates far more social dislocation and poverty than Japan.
According to labor experts and Labor Ministry officials, Japan needs to revamp the system to fit a more dynamic labor market in which not all jobs are held for life, and to prevent layoffs from being so financially devastating.
"Japan's social safety net has failed to keep up with changes in the labor market," said Yusuke Inoue, a section chief in the Labor Ministry's bureau of stable employment. "We must build a safety net that suits this more deregulated working environment."
RW: This recession is hitting the industrialized world head on. Especially in the labor force, efficiency gains may have been added through slackening hiring environments, and now, worker welfare is at risk.
Note: the article refers to the number of irregular employees as 35.5% of total employment. This comes from the Statistics Bureau's annual report, which is different from the monthly release (chart above).