Part-time and temporary workers comprised 34.6 percent of the nation’s workforce in 2003, up 7.1 percentage points from 1999, mainly due to corporate efforts to cut labor costs, according to a labor ministry survey released this week.

The poll by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry shows that firms are replacing full-time employees with cheaper part-time labor.

The survey found that 65.4 percent of workers were employed full time as of Sept. 30, compared with 72.5 percent in the previous survey four years earlier.

So-called full-time employees are usually hired on a life-employment basis. Part-timers, who usually work the same amount of hours as full-timers, are not.

Part-timers comprised 23.0 percent of the workforce in 2003, contract workers 2.3 percent and workers dispatched by temporary staff agencies 2.0 percent, the survey said.

In response to a multiple-choice question, 51.7 percent of employers cited reduction of labor costs as a reason for hiring part-timers and temp staff. A total of 28.0 percent of employers said they need such workers to cope with short-term business fluctuations, while 26.5 percent said they are adjusting employment based on business cycles.

Of the part-timers and temp staff, 22.9 percent said they hoped to change their employment status, with more than 80 percent saying they wish to become full-time employees.

Some 19.8 percent of employers said they expect the number of full-time workers to shrink further. A ministry official also said the trend of employing part-timers instead of full-timers will continue.

The poll saw responses from 24,930 employees and 11,624 business entities.

Merit-based pay poll

Merit-based pay has been adopted by 55.8 percent of Japanese companies responding to a survey by the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training.

Asked whether merit-based work systems have encouraged employees to work harder for better results, 72.8 percent of the firms said they had seen either a positive or moderate effect, the independent administrative body said in a survey report released this week.

But only 37.6 percent of the surveyed workers said they see favorable effects. Some 29.9 percent of the workers said they had became more discontent with their pay due to the debut of merit-based pay.

Some 33.3 percent said the congenial atmosphere in their workplaces has deteriorated.

The survey in January of 1,066 companies, each with 100 employees or more on the payroll, and 7,826 workers found that 18.7 percent of the firms gave priority to results over seniority in assessing their employees in the past three years.

Some 44.8 percent said they did so to some extent.

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