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How remote work has led to an increase in side jobs in Japan

[March 10, 2021] BY Worker's Resort Editorial Team

The transformation of side jobs

In the past, side jobs in Japan mainly constituted businesses that could be run alone, such as investing, share services, affiliate marketing, and resale. Recently, however, there has been an increase in the number of people taking on side jobs alongside their regular work. 

Major Japanese Internet service company Yahoo! Japan made headlines when it conducted a large-scale recruitment initiative called “Gig Partner Recruitment.” Other examples of large Japanese enterprises and local governments hiring these types of workers have emerged, and the number of recruitment agencies specializing in helping companies find side giggers has also increased. 

In this article, we spotlight several examples of how public and private organizations, along with recruitment agencies, are approaching this new type of employment. We also give an overview of side job trends in Japan.

Adoption of side giggers at large Japanese companies

In Japan, it’s not just small and medium-sized businesses that face hiring difficulties. This has led to an increase in recruiting side giggers even at well-known, large companies. Among them, we will introduce cases from three large Japanese companies.

1. Yahoo! Japan 

In July 2020, Japan’s leading Internet service company, Yahoo! Japan, announced a large-scale recruitment effort of about 100 people called “Gig Partner Recruitment.” These would be fully-remote employees, hired under an outsourcing contract. According to an October 28 press release, Yahoo! Japan received more than 4,500 applicants. Of that, 104 people between the ages of 10 and 80 were selected and have already started working.

With an increase in remote work due to COVID-19, the company dissolved its core hours and the limit on the number of permitted remote working days. On October 1st, 2020, it also shifted to a work style called “unlimited remote work.” This has made it easier to hire side giggers, allowing for the success of the Gig Partner Recruitment initiative. The purpose of the initiative is to integrate the opinions of diverse people to promote open innovation, which is necessary in the new normal.

2. Cybozu, Inc.

Cybozu, a Japanese software company that develops information sharing tools and groupware such as Cybozu Office and Kintone, is accepting applications throughout the year. It is specifically looking for applicants with multiple jobs, and applicants can apply for any position available. 

Aiming to reduce employee turnover, Cybozu has been reforming its work system since 2007. It introduced a remote working system in 2010, and two years later it expanded its “Ultra Work” system, allowing employees to choose where and when to work. It was also in 2012 that the company started allowing its employees to have multiple jobs. 

In 2017, the company started actively hiring employees with multiple jobs. Yukio Otsuki, the company’s Head of Corporate Branding, told Business Insider Japan that the aim is for employees to meet with various people outside of the company. In turn, their external work will bring in new connections and knowledge.

3. Unilever Japan 

Unilever Japan, the Japanese subsidiary of one of the world’s largest consumer goods manufacturers, started recruiting side giggers in July 2020 to “support parallel careers in the age of COVID-19.” Recruitment is open all year round, and all work is done remotely. Anyone over 20 years old may apply, but students may also apply for some projects. The interview process is also conducted online, so candidates can apply from anywhere in the world.

In addition to individual applications, the company also accepts interns and side gig workers from partner companies and universities. In 2016, the company introduced the “WAA (Work from Anywhere & Anytime)” system, which allows employees to choose where and when to work. The current recruitment of side giggers is positioned as an extension of that.

Hiring more side gig employees in the public sector

In 2019, Yoichicho, a small town in Hokkaido prefecture, and Nosecho, a small town in Osaka prefecture, started recruiting side hustlers for various strategy implementation positions. More examples of side gig employee recruitment for Japanese local governments can be found below.

1. Ikoma-shi, Nara Prefecture

Ikoma-shi in Nara Prefecture, a city in the Kansai region, signed a partnership agreement with En Japan, a recruitment agency, in October 2019. It had seven openings, including ICT promotion and revenue generation, which allowed for both remote work and side jobs. In addition to private-sector personnel, applications from current national and local government employees were also welcome. Just as Ikoma-shi allows its employees to have side jobs, it also accepted applications from other municipalities’ civil servants wishing to work a second job.

During the month-long recruitment period, the total number of applicants exceeded 1,000. The most popular position, Tourism Planner, received 295 applications. This indicated a high level of interest in this type of work. 

2. Okayama-shi, Okayama Prefecture

The government of Okayama-shi in Okayama prefecture, located in the Chugoku region of Japan, recruited a number of strategy managers in June 2020. Working with recruitment company Mirai Works, it was only open to those looking for side jobs with professional experience in the private sector. With a relatively high compensation rate of 25,000 yen per day (transportation fee not included), the openings attracted a lot of attention. The employees would be hired under an outsourcing contract, and work about once a week from both Okayama City Hall and home.

In the end, 616 people applied for the job and five were hired. Of these, three were side gig workers and two were freelancers. Among the new hires was the Promotion Strategy Manager, whose main job is brand marketing for a theme park. The skills used for that job has proved to be very relevant and useful for the Okayama-shi job. 

3. Kobe-shi, Hyogo Prefecture

Hyogo prefecture’s Kobe-shi, located in the Kansai region, worked with consulting company CrowdWorks to recruit 40 side giggers in September 2020. It was seeking candidates who specialize in public relations, as the job involved writing publicity and social media content, planning videos, and taking photos. All the work would be done remotely under an outsourcing contract. It is reported that the city government received more than 1,000 applications just 10 days after the job posting and that more than half of the applicants were from outside the prefecture.

Recruitment companies specializing in side jobs are also flourishing

While most large companies recruit side giggers using internal resources, local governments and smaller companies often use recruitment agencies to help.

Private recruitment companies’ partnerships with the public sector 

The aforementioned examples of local Japanese governments’ recruitment of side giggers were all made possible through their partnerships with private recruitment companies. 

In Ikoma-shi’s partnership with En Japan, candidates had to register on one of the three sites– En, AMBI, or Midoruno Tenshoku– in order to apply for a job. Okayama-shi had a dedicated page on the Mirai Works website, while Kobe-shi used “Cloud Links,” a side job recruitment service operated by CloudWorks.

Recruitment agencies specializing in side jobs

In Japan, several recruiting agencies specializing in side jobs have emerged. Shumatsu Worker. (“Weekend Worker”), which mainly matches side giggers with startup companies, announced funding of 400 million yen in July 2020. At that time, it had over 23,000 registered users. 

Skill Shift is a service operated by Mirai Works that specializes in matching small and medium-sized companies in rural areas with those working in cities. In 2019, it posted job openings at about 400 companies in 102 municipalities nationwide and achieved an application rate of 99.6%.

Other examples include Another Works, a comprehensive service that posts jobs of all types, and Hallheart’s service called “Pro’s Side Job,” which helps professionals find side jobs. 

The Kanto Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI-Kanto), a Japanese government agency, worked with Pasona Job Hub to recruit people with multiple jobs in three areas including Nagano (Shiojiri City), Shizuoka, and Ibaraki.

By using a recruitment service provider or a side-job matching service, METI-Kanto can take advantage of “reaching out to people who are registered on the site” and “utilizing the know-how of the recruiter.” Applicants also benefit from the ease of finding openings by registering on recruitment websites. This trend of candidates using recruitment companies to find side jobs and organizations using them to find side gig employees is expected to continue in the future.

The utilization of employees with side jobs is expected to expand further in Japan 

As the number of jobs that can be performed by remote workers increases in Japan, it is becoming easier to hire side giggers from outside the country. Local governments will likely continue to announce these types of recruitment initiatives in the future as they lead to more exposure and publicity. 

According to the “Survey on Corporate Attitudes Toward Concurrent and Subcontract Work,” conducted by Japan’s largest recruitment firm Recruit Career, companies that have already introduced a side gig employee system cited “hiring diverse employees” and “gaining experience and knowledge that cannot be cultivated in-house” as advantages. 

As the outcomes of local governments and companies that have already adopted side gig employees become clearer, it is likely that there will be an increase in this type of employment. 

The number of employees who wish to work on the side is also increasing. This is due in part to COVID-19-induced remote work and as well as income concerns. One of the reasons why Japanese companies did not tolerate side jobs in the past is due to legislation.  

Workers are obligated to tally their working hours with the company where the side job is held. According to the Labor Standards Law, employees in Japan are required to work 40 hours a week and no more than 8 hours a day, and if they exceed these hours, companies are required to pay extra wages. This also applies to secondary jobs.

In order to alleviate this situation, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) issued a directive in September 2020 that allows for self-reporting and simple work hour management methods. This will likely lead to an increase in the number of companies allowing side jobs and thus lead to an increase in employees with side jobs. 

The future of Japan is one in which organizations will need to be able to utilize external workers, and individuals will need to be given the freedom to take on side jobs.