Power Harassment by the State” Melancholy of Hello Work Employees Who Lose Their Jobs Every Three Years
The National Network of Non-regular Women in Public Service (Hamnet) conducted a survey of non-regular employees working in public service fields nationwide from May 2, and completed it on June 4. The results will be tabulated at the end of this month. The second survey, conducted last year, received 715 responses. Hamunet is seeking job and livelihood stability for non-regular public service workers in preparation for the House of Councilors election in July.
As unemployment is prolonged due to the Corona disaster, Hello Work (Public Employment Security Offices) are a reassuring presence that listens to users’ concerns about their livelihood while assessing their aptitude and offering job placement assistance. Hello Work is also the last safety net to support those who have difficulty in finding employment, as it serves as a contact point for measures taken by each prefectural labor bureau in response to the employment and unemployment situation.
However, Hello Work employees, who are in a position to relieve users of unemployment, are not actually protecting their own employment either. The reality is that part-time Hello Work employees are being forced out of their jobs and suffering mental anguish as a result of a system that has been called “power harassment by the government.
Midori Hamana (a pseudonym), who works at Hello Work, requested a transfer to the counseling service because of a phone call she received about seven years ago.
The caller was a man who had lost his job and at the same time his income had been cut off, and he was in arrears on his electricity bill for a long time. His electricity had been cut off, and he asked if the government could somehow assist him. The man had a child.
Mr. Hamana, who was working in a different department at the time, simply told the man to consult with city hall or other authorities and hung up the phone. What happened to the man after that is not known.
I couldn’t do or say anything,” she said. She felt frustrated and left with nothing more than her own frustration.
I have always regretted what happened to him. I wanted to be able to listen to him slowly, find a job that suited him, and introduce him to employment.
This one phone call led Mr. Hamana to the counseling department, where he has consulted with many clients and helped them find jobs. He has counseled many clients and helped them find jobs.
Sometimes he has paved a new path for them by helping them acquire qualifications through vocational training, and “it is very rewarding” when he sees them find the job they had envisioned for themselves, Hamana says.
Sometimes they come to me to report their employment, and that makes me happy.
It was through Hello Work that Mr. Hamana himself found this job. It was close to her home, she had weekends off, and she did not have to work overtime. She first used Hello Work when she had reached the end of her child-rearing years and found a job that suited her perfectly. Even though it was just a coincidence, she came to love her job so much that she even said, “I feel as if it is my life’s work, and I find it very rewarding.
However, there was an unexpected pitfall.
He was hired on a short-term, one-year contract. The contract is renewed every year, but the maximum is set at three years, after which time the company must try to recruit openly. Although he is a 13-year veteran of the company, he is not given special treatment because of his experience. Every three years, he submits his resume and waits to see if he is hired, mingling with applicants from the outside.
Although Mr. Hamana was transferred once from another department, he has since been “fortunate” to return to the employment mediation department of his choice.
In fact, however, “many of my colleagues have not, and some cannot return. It’s complicated.”
During the interview, Ms. Hamana repeatedly said, “It’s hard. No wonder.
It is inevitable that all part-time workers, who have been with the company for three years, will lose their jobs at one point or another. In order to continue in the same job, they have to apply for open positions along with other job applicants from outside the company. Even for someone like Ms. Hamana, who has worked in the same department for years, there is no guarantee that she will be hired.
There may be someone else who is more qualified for the job. As a Hello Work employee who provides employment counseling to job seekers, I know this well.
One part of Hello Work’s consultation service is to write letters of introduction to employment agencies. If a client who I am counseling says he or she is applying for an open position at Hello Work, I consider the client’s qualifications and, of course, write a letter of introduction if the client wishes to do so.
The most frustrating part is when the job is for a colleague or friend whose contract has expired after three years and who has been forced to leave the company. Even so, we will still try to find that job opportunity for the consultant.
Moreover, the letters of introduction and recommendation are accessible to any Hello Work employee, so even colleagues in line for open positions can see them.
If you want to look, you can see that one of your colleagues is recommending someone else. I can see that they are referring so many job applicants to me. It’s very hard for me because that’s what happened this time.”
If it is a colleague, it may still be a good thing.
Some people are forced to write their own letter of introduction for a user who wishes to be employed at their post, even though they themselves are in the position of being forced out of their job. Despite feeling torn, they are forced to fulfill their duties.
Working at Halowork remains a popular position. They work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with no overtime and can take weekends off. Two years ago, after the labor union’s pursuit, part-time employees were also allowed to take summer vacation time. However, Mr. Hamana says, “I don’t need a vacation; at least I want my employment to be stable.
When Ms. Hamana was initially employed at Halowork, no one lost their job because the personnel quota happened to be increased due to that year’s budgeting. Now, however, with the open positions coming up next year, the situation remains tense. She has been having a hard time since before January this year, unable to shake off the thought that next year will be hers, with her colleagues by her side.
Fortunately, I have never had the sad experience of being in a position where someone else has been cut. But next year, it’s an open call, so I don’t know. If the budget of the department I am in charge of is reduced, it is assumed that inevitably I will be cut.”
Within the same workplace, they cut people because the time had come, not because of their experience, work ability, personality, or other aptitudes. That is the most unbearable thing, Hamana says.
I could apply for a position in another department, but that department’s budget might have been cut as well. It would be unbearable to drop someone and have me go in. If I didn’t have a life, I would leave, but I do have a life, so if there is an opening for employment, I will apply. I will do it, but it won’t change the way I feel about it.”
Ms. Hamana has barely maintained her mental stability, but in the spring of 2021, the National Network of Non-regular Women in Public Service ( Hamnet ) published a survey (1,252 valid responses). (252 valid responses) revealed that as many as 90% of non-regular civil servants are mentally unstable under such a system.
A woman working at the Labor Bureau said, “As the end of the fiscal year approaches, I feel anxious and dissatisfied, and my stress is increasing day by day. The policy toward part-time employees in the labor administration, which creates unemployment as an easy way to stop hiring, is nothing but power harassment by the government” ( survey by the labor union of the entire Ministry of Labor).
Personnel in the public service workplace, including those at Halowork, are influenced by the budget of each ministry, and the number of personnel increases and decreases in accordance with the current situation. For example, at sites where emergency response to the Corona disaster was required, the budget for the project was increased. In many places, the number of personnel was increased accordingly. However, once the corona is brought under control, it is expected that the number of people in that department will decrease, and another department with a larger budget will increase. No one at the field level knows where or how much budget will be allocated, or whether the number of people in a department will increase or decrease. It is the same in other companies. Usually, personnel decisions in the public service workplace are made in late January after budget decisions are made. At this time of year, part-time employees are subject to extreme uncertainty.
Clearly, part-time employees, who are treated as a budget and employment adjuster, are the majority in the field and play a central role in the work. On the other hand, full-time managers, who are their supervisors, are transferred every two years, and they even learn their jobs from part-time workers at their new locations.
However, the hiring of part-time employees is greatly influenced by the opinions of their supervisors, the regular on-site employees, and naturally, there are a certain number of people who try to curry favor with the regular employees. On the other hand, if they ask for the things that are natural for workers, such as stable employment and higher wages so that they can work with peace of mind, their path is immediately blocked.
I am afraid that if I say something, they will think that I don’t like it, and on the other hand, there are people who try to get people to like them by taking advantage of good or bad relationships, so sometimes I wonder if it is a personnel matter of likes and dislikes. I am still afraid to shield myself, but I can’t easily be liked, so I have to do my job solemnly,” Hamana said.
Hello Work helps unemployed people find a job that suits them and rebuild their lives with hope. Shouldn’t the non-regular employees who work there be the first to be guaranteed a stable job and livelihood?
Interview and text： Chie Matsumoto
Journalist. She mainly covers issues related to social justice, such as human rights and labor. She is co-author of "Mass Media Sexual Harassment White Paper" (Bungeishunju) and "Manga de Wakaru Black Kigyo" (Godo Shuppan), and co-translator of "Striking China" (Sairyusha), which will be published in January 2021. Co-translation of "The Power of Change to Move the World: A Message from the Co-Chairman of Black Lives Matter" (Akashi Shoten) will be published in January 2021.