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Petit Work Mobilizes the Labor Force in Japan

In light of Japan’s ongoing labor shortage, Recruit Jobs’ JOBS Research Center (JBRC) has proposed a new working framework that caters to those who are unable to work full time. Known as “petit work,” this two-hour working style aims to mobilize a labor force of homemakers and senior citizens. 

For the past several decades, Japanese companies have operated on the premise that regular employees must work full time during (and sometimes beyond) prescribed working hours. But Japan is currently in the midst of a labor shortage caused by an increasingly aging population and declining birthrate. Companies of all sizes across industries are struggling to recruit workers.

In response to these ongoing issues, Recruit Jobs’ JOBS Research Center (JBRC) has been researching ways to encourage more Japanese citizens to enter the workforce. In Japan, as in most other modern capitalist economies, stigma against senior citizens and homemakers—who, more often than not, are women—has kept many people who belong to these populations from contributing to the workforce. Surveys have shown that many homemakers and senior citizens are interested in employment opportunities, but either feel unwanted or are incapable of working the hours expected of regular employees.

With this knowledge, JBRC developed a  new workstyle framework that appeals to different lifestyles, ages, and capabilities. This framework, called “petit work,” divides and simplifies jobs into specialized tasks that can be completed in short timeframes.

To encourage the adoption of petit work, JBRC released several initiatives aimed at dispelling negative stereotypes about female homemakers and senior citizens: The “Recruitment for mothers as mothers” initiative focused on the skills many mothers acquire through childcare and homemaking. Participation in the initiative has played a major role in helping many stay-at-home mothers secure their next career.

The Assessment initiative similarly focused on reframing the capabilities of senior citizens. Companies were advised to clarify the skills required for each job opportunity and type of task so that senior workers could find their actual resut from the Assessment sometime even exceeds the required skills and capabilities. The data from the Assessment initiative can help challenging the stereotypes that could hold seniors back from trying to apply for the jobs that they are in fact highly capable of byshowing how they performed at high levels with the Assessment and can be an added value to their potential employers.

These initiatives have taken root throughout Japan. They are currently being adopted as measures to resolve regional issues, such as raising the employment rate of women in Kamaishi and boosting the employment rate and social engagement of seniors in Otsuchi.

Success stories like that of the Iwate Prefectural Coastal Regional Development Bureau, which faced a severe labor shortage following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, have shown other companies that embracing the latent petit workforce can save businesses from collapse.

JBRC hopes that petit work will inspire more people to take the next step in pursuing employment, regardless of social stigma and inaccessible working conditions. Today, more and more companies are seeing the value in petit workers and are evolving their job requirements in response. In some cases, petit workers have even been hired as regular employees.

The decline of the Japanese labor force shows no signs of abating just yet, but JBRC will continue to pursue solutions to demographic and societal issues in Japan that challenge the expectations of traditional working lifestyles.

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