Japan's famed job security has a downside: it's difficult for people to change occupations. Once an individual finds work in a store, restaurant, factory or office, that tends to be where they remain. While it's perfectly possible to change employers, pulling off a 'career jump' into another occupation is an unachievable dream for many.
At the same time, Japan faces an acute labor shortage caused by a declining and ageing population. Giving people more opportunities to move between customer service and administrative work is one way to offset the personnel shortage in white-collar occupations. However, many people lack the basic skills that employers require for office-based work.
Until now, temporary employment agencies in Japan have played a key role in dispatching administrative staff where they are needed most, enabling companies to meet their immediate workforce needs. But what if an employment agency was to start helping non-qualified workers transition into office work through skills training and career development?
This is the thinking behind Mira-yell (available in Japanese only), a Recruit company's service that specialises in finding long-term administrative positions for individuals with little or no prior experience of office work. Mira-yell's service includes pre-employment training in IT skills and business etiquette, plus benefits that usually accrue to full-time employees, such as paid maternity and childcare leave. As we'll see, this has the potential to transform lives.
Assessing the social impact
Japan may be famed for its excellent customer service, but some retail and hospitality workers eventually hope to move into administrative, office-based work. Often this is only possible as a temporary employee. However, unlike full-time employees, temporary employees sometimes face the difficulty to develop specialised skills.
Mira-yell is a new model of employment agency that helps working mothers and other disadvantaged groups shift into more comfortable and less strenuous office work, while also offering them essential skills training and ongoing employment in a company where they can advance in their careers. So far, more than 4,000 people have taken advantage of Mira-yell's service, and surveys have shown very positive outcomes(*).
For example, a sampling of Mira-yell employees showed an immediate rise in job satisfaction. Among those in their first year with Mira-yell, 65% experienced some degree of job satisfaction, whereas only 34% had been satisfied with work a year before they joined. Job satisfaction remained at around 60% for Mira-yell employees in their second year.
Mira-yell employees were also more satisfied with their new lifestyles. Only 33% of new employees had been satisfied or somewhat satisfied with life a year previously. This rate climbed to 66% in their first year of joining Mira-yell, and 73% for employees in their second year.
Rates of overall happiness also increased after joining Mira-yell. While only 49% of new employees were happy or somewhat happy a year previously, this figure rose to 72% during the first year with Mira-yell. By their second year, 78% of employees were reporting happiness.
According to Ken Ito, Executive Director of Social Value Japan who led this study: "Mira-yell can offer new work styles under indefinite-term employment contracts, in addition to providing opportunities not just to change careers but also to advance long-term career development... further increasing the happiness and satisfaction of employees, and leading to the development of work styles that provide the most social value over the long term."
"Mira-yell saw my potential"
A Mira-yell employee was able to significantly improve their work-life balance and job satisfaction by switching to office jobs. Even those who were employed full-time in their previous jobs experienced greater happiness and satisfaction after switching to Mira-yell, where they continued to enjoy similar benefits and access to education and training.
Yui Fukiura used to work in apparel sales before she discovered Mira-yell. "I was working full-time as a store manager, but it was difficult to improve my career further so I decided to change jobs. At that time I was 27 years old and had no clerical experience. Things didn't go well, and I almost lost hope until I learned about Mira-yell. My new job started with learning the flow of work, and now I'm a team leader. The job is rewarding because I have the same standing as my full-time colleagues."
Miki Kobayashi also worked in apparel sales, but as a part-timer. She didn't attend university and felt left behind when her friends graduated into good jobs. Now she works as an HR Assistant. "I thought it would be difficult as a high-school graduate to get a job with a company in Tokyo. I felt inferior because I didn't have clerical skills, but Mira-yell saw my potential. Now it's been three years since I joined my current workplace, and other Mira-yell employees have since joined me. I feel that Mira-yell is trusted by companies."