ArrowArtboardCreated with Sketch.Title ChevronTitle ChevronEye IconIcon FacebookIcon LinkedinIcon Mail ContactPath LayerIcon MailMenu BurgerPositive ArrowIcon PrintIcon SearchSite TitleTitle ChevronIcon Twitter
Economy

Underemployed in Japan: 1.7m stuck in part-time jobs

Ultralow jobless rate masks the growing number of people who want to work more

The Japanese government reported Tuesday that the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 2.5% in April.

TOKYO -- Japan's jobless rate remained ultralow at 2.5% in April, which suggests full employment but obscures the growing number of people who want to work more but can't.

In an effort to bring Japanese labor market statistics closer to international standards, the ministry of internal affairs this year began tracking those who work less than 35 hours a week yet want to log more hours. That group came to 1.77 million during the January-March quarter -- close to the 1.84 million unemployed.

Examples of underemployed workers are part-time workers seeking full-time positions.

Japan's two-tier labor market is undergoing wrenching changes as its postwar demographic dividend turns rapidly into a burden.

According to Tuesday's latest jobs report, the country had 21.04 million "nonregular" workers in April -- a category that includes contract workers -- up 5% from a year earlier. Driving this growth was a 5.7% increase in part-time workers to 14.75 million.

Companies are scrambling to secure scarce labor, particularly in industries like construction and trucking. The ratio of job openings to candidates for "regular" work is at an all-time high. However, 14% of nonregular workers say they cannot find such positions, which provide job security and benefits, according to a 2017 survey by the internal affairs ministry.

This disconnect owes in large part to corporate hiring practices. Businesses often want the flexibility to shrink or expand the workforce according to the ebb and flow of earnings. A large pool of nonregular workers provides such freedom.

Japan had 65.66 million people employed in fiscal 2017, an increase of 870,000 from a year earlier. The number of underemployed workers roughly equals twice that gain. Giving the underemployed more hours may not decrease the jobless rate, but could help fill in the gaps in a tight labor market, not to mention contribute more to overburdened social welfare programs.

Japan's LU4 rate, a measure of underemployment, came to 5.9% in the January-March quarter, the ministry reported on May 11. This gauge includes the unemployed, underemployed and potential workers.

By comparison, the rate in the U.K. was 11% in the October-December quarter of 2017, with Germany at 8.5% and France at 17.2%. South Korea had a 12.2% rate in the January-March quarter.

In the U.S., the more narrowly defined U6 unemployment rate came to 8.5% in the January-March quarter.

Sponsored Content

About Sponsored Content This content was commissioned by Nikkei's Global Business Bureau.

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this monthThis is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia;
the most dynamic market in the world.

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia

Get trusted insights from experts within Asia itself.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Get Unlimited access

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this month

This is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia; the most
dynamic market in the world
.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 3 months for $9

Offer ends October 31st

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers and subscribe

Your full access to the Nikkei Asian Review has expired

You need a subscription to:

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers
NAR on print phone, device, and tablet media