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Haken-giri (派遣切り?) is the Japanese term for layoffs of temporary employees (haken) dispatched to companies by staffing agencies. In particular, it refers to the wave of layoffs that followed the financial crisis of 2008, which highlighted recent structural changes in the Japanese labor market and prompted calls for reform of the labor laws.


The temporary staffing industry in Japan is regulated by the 1985 Worker Dispatch Law.[1] The original aim of this law was to regulate the extra-legal system of subcontractor personnel dispatching that had become commonplace in the automobile and electronics industries.[2] Designed to allow project-based work and temporary staffing in sectors plagued by shortages of highly skilled workers (e.g., software specialists), the 1985 law limited temporary staffing to a "white list" of 13 occupations. But subsequent revisions steadily expanded its range of application. Notably, the 1999 revision replaced the "white list" with a short "black list" of occupations where temporary staffing remained restricted. This had the effect of opening most of the labor market to the temporary staffing industry.[3] Finally, the 2004 revision removed most of the remaining restrictions on temporary staffing in the manufacturing sector.[4]

The result was an enormous expansion of temporary labor in the Japanese labor market. Between 2000 and 2007, the number of regular employees in Japan declined by about 1.9 million, while the number of nonregular workers increased by about 4.5 million. By 2008, short-term contract and temporary staffing workers had increased from a small percentage to more than 30% of the Japanese labor force.[5]


Estimates of the number of layoffs between October 2008 and March 2009 range from 131,000, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare,[6] to 400,000, according to staffing industry associations.[7] The problem is especially acute because temporary workers enjoy few of the rights and benefits that protect full-time regular employees. For example, at least half of Japan's non-regular workers are ineligible for unemployment benefits because they have not held their jobs a year or longer.[6] In many cases, both haken and short-term contract workers were laid off before the terms of their contracts, but the lack of penalties in the labor laws meant that no redress was available except through civil lawsuits.

Public interest in the plight of the laid-off workers peaked around the end of 2008, when 500 unemployed and homeless temporary workers converged on a "New Year's Haken Tent Village" in a park in central Tokyo. According to the organizing committee, many of the workers were in poor physical condition, and eight were hospitalized with pneumonia.[8] In response, some companies rescinded their early layoffs, or at least agreed to allow temporary workers to continue living in company dormitories until the period of their contracts. But the widespread public perception that large corporations had failed to live up to their social responsibilities led to calls for reform of the labor laws. In February, the Tokyo Bar Association issued a 10-point statement calling for reforms such as restoration of the "white list" of skilled occupations, an upper limit on margins levied by staffing agencies, prohibition of dispatching within corporate groups, and stricter penalties for early layoffs.[9]

2010 Proposed revision of Worker Dispatch Law[edit]

The Japanese government has indicated that it intends to revise the Worker Dispatch Law in regard to temporary employees. The main points of the revision will center on:

(1) problematic registration-type dispatches will be prohibited in principle, except for highly specialized jobs, such as language interpretation;

(2) dispatches to manufacturing industries will be banned in principle, except for regular-type long-term employment;

(3) day labor dispatches and dispatches shorter than two months will be banned in principle; and

(4) in the case of illegal dispatch, the user company or other user organization will be obliged to offer an employment contract to the dispatched worker.[10]

The bill must still be presented to the ordinary session of the Diet for approval.


  1. ^ "Act for Securing the Proper Operation of Worker Dispatching Undertakings and Improved Working Conditions for Dispatched Workers". Japanese Cabinet Secretariat. March 2007. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  2. ^ Protected Employment Economies, pp. 8-9
  3. ^ Protected Employment Economies, p. 15
  4. ^ "Overview of Revisions to Worker Dispatching Law" (in Japanese). Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. 2004. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  5. ^ Nariai, Osamu (June 2008). "Problems With Employment". Japan Echo 35 (3). Retrieved 2009-04-03. [dead link]
  6. ^ a b Fackler, Martin (February 7, 2009). "In Japan, New Jobless May Lack Safety Net". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-13. 
  7. ^ "Industry Associations Forecast 400,000 Temporary and Contract Job Losses in Manufacturing" (in Japanese). Asahi Shinbun. January 1, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-03. [dead link]
  8. ^ Gaskins, Cory (January 8, 2009). "It takes a village to move a ministry". Japan Inc. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  9. ^ "Position Statement on Reform of the Worker Dispatch Law" (in Japanese). Tokyo Bar Association. February 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  10. ^ "Cabinet Approves Bill for Partially Revising Worker Dispatch Law," March 30, 2010, Japanese International Labour Federation website