• Yukiko Sakata

The Reality Of "Haken" A Temporary Staffing System in Japan

"Haken" has been a fab word in Japan for many years now, and it is the "system" that the company contracts with the staffing company to "send" their "trained" staff as "their"employees. This has been convenient for many companies in Japan as it is easy to calculate the staffing cost and simply, it is easier to fire them than the regular employees, which is the reason why many of the people, most likely, women, go through unbelievable unfair discrimination and mistreatment.

It is a good system for the companies, and for the staff who is supposed to be happy to be able to work for the company, as thanks to the system, she can join the company that she wouldn't be able to otherwise. This situation makes the regular position sound hard to get (but it is not really.), which also contributes to the excessive amount of hidden authorities for all the employees as they all believe that the staff is "willing to be a part of the company" "even though she is in the lowest hierarchy". However, in the reality, not many people like their jobs, and the "staff" isn't the exception. The company employees that are full of frustration usually want the lower ones to go through something similar. It works in any Japanese environment even with such cruel mindset as they all live in the senior-junior ladder of people from their local schools and universities. Where there is a community, there is a hierarchy, usually classified by age, status, occupations, etc. Once you are "haken", you are a less valuable person and less wanted from anybody. Well, it shouldn't be like that, but since the system sounds like the "haken" workers are skipping some important evaluation process to join the company, plus they are visited by their staffing company "consultant" almost every three months when the contract needs to be resigned (three months employment contract!!) where they are actually allowed to tell the staffing company about what you feel about the job itself, which will eventually be conveyed to the supervisors, which will then, if the "haken" is "liked" by the top management and is expected to stay in the company, influence the other employees, like, they have to care more about her and ask her out for a lunch even though she just types in some data in the computer everyday, the employees feel "unfair" about their work environment.

The hidden and invisible pressure could get even darker. The "haken staff" shouldn't be "better" than the employees and if the "haken staff" dates with someone in the company, (actually this could happen to any female employees regardless of their jobs) she is definately at the risk of being seen as someone that's very less valuable than the men. It's fine if she agrees, but since it is the "three months employment agreement" with no guarantee, it isn't smart to compare them as apples to apples. In the country where the longer one works, the more he gets (or used to), as opposed to the regular employees, "haken staff" are allowed to say "no" to the overwork request. Nowadays it is everyone's right, but just about 10 or even less years ago, not many people had the right to do that as it used to be "selfish" to prioritize their "personal" reasons overwork. Such a separation leaves both sides awkward feelings to each other as they both do have got the point.

The worst case is that "haken" doesn't get along with the regular employees with the same gender. Since it is the country that could be nice to women but wouldn't give them much rights or authorities, the same gender groups are helpful to anyone. However, since it is already hard to work hard as a woman in Japan, one has to face the scarcity of "care" to them when there is another female newbee, younger, attention-grabbing, maybe popular among male employees, and have the "haken"-ee right to just ditch her job and go home.

What has been causing this conflict is not just the system that seems to work more for the companies and not for the staffing sides and definitely ignores the diversity of the Japanese people and the workstyle, but the cultural tradition to see the work as their life process. A long time ago, a job wasn't something to make one living but used to be something that represented himself. It still is like that, and only with the highest achievement, one can get highly recognized. This is being disrupted these days as the globalization of the country is slowly taken place.

The best shape of the success of "haken" is the early stage "buy out". It is usually easily done by some companies like the foreign financial service companies. They ordered something for a specialized person, and if the cost will be more reasonable, why not? Where this simplisity works, this system works. Otherwise, for this to be really adopted for real, I believe there should be more legal protections for the staffs.

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