We like to think that work is about more than just making money, but the reality is that most of us have to work to earn our daily bread. A steady job is crucial for our long-term well-being.

In Japan, employment contracts may be either open-ended or fixed-term. Temporary contracts are unregulated except for the length of the term, which can run to a maximum of three years (Article 14 of the Labor Standards Law). The legal principle of "abuse of the right to dismiss" covered in our Feb. 28 column ("Oversleeping radio anchor set tough precedent for firing staff") applies to open-ended but not fixed-term contracts.

In the case of fixed-term contracts, employers can claim employment naturally finishes with the end of the contract term. They need neither comply with rules for dismissal nor even give notice. In principle, there is no room for debate over the legitimacy of a non-renewal.