More Japanese Companies Allowing Workers to Have Side Jobs

Courtesy of Miho Kotani
Miho Kotani, an employee of Rohto Pharmaceutical Co., takes part in a video meeting for her side job in December after finishing her main job for the day.

The number of companies allowing their workers to have second jobs is on the rise amid the coronavirus pandemic. As workers’ incomes have declined or they have gained time thanks to teleworking, they have more latitude to take up extra work.

The change has been witnessed even among large companies, most of which have traditionally banned their workers from having second jobs, apparently in the hope of seeing them make use of the knowledge and skills gained through a sideline.

■ Viewpoint broadened

Miho Kotani, who works in public relations and CSV (creating shared value) promotion at Osaka-based Rohto Pharmaceutical Co., attended an online meeting for her side job after finishing her main job for the day. In her second job, she is in charge of public relations for Baton Plus, a company that makes and sells woodworked items in Urahoro, Hokkaido. Using knowledge gained through her main job, she proposes ways for Baton Plus to promote its products to company employees in urban areas.

At Rohto, which adopted a system allowing side jobs in 2016, about 80 employees now have side jobs in various fields: there is a pharmacist, a university lecturer and a design producer, for instance. Kotani said, “By getting to know a different business, I have broadened my viewpoint.”

Shunya Nakajima, a 26-year-old employee of temporary staffing agency Persol Career Co. took up a second job as a writer around late April last year when the state of emergency was declared for the first time. Having been instructed to work at home, he used the commuting time he saved to set up a sideline. “I became sure that I could earn money outside of my main job,” Nakajima said.

Companies have gradually adopted the side-job system ever since the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in 2018 removed a rule banning second jobs in its work regulation model, which companies refer to. The government had the idea of promoting side jobs in its action plan for a growth strategy adopted by the Cabinet in July last year.

According to a survey by Lancers, Inc., a leading crowdsourcing company that serves as a go-between for jobs and individuals online, 4.09 million people are estimated to be doing side jobs at present.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the trend. About 30% of those who have registered with Lancers in hopes of getting a side job began their second jobs after February last year when the virus started spreading in Japan.

■ Fears of overwork

Most Japanese companies have traditionally not allowed regular workers to hold side jobs, on the assumption of life-long employment.

Yet even among large long-established companies such as IHI Corp., Kirin Holdings Co. and Mizuho Financial Group, the move to allow workers to hold second jobs is spreading. This is because amid a rapidly changing business environment, driven by such trends as the digitization of society and decarbonization, it has become ever more difficult for workers to gain a diverse range of skills and capabilities within their companies alone.

One challenge that has arisen alongside the spread of side jobs is managing work hours.

Last autumn, the labor ministry set forth application guidelines that subject a person’s total working hours – those of the main job and side job combined – to the rule of working hours.

Many people also take up side jobs on contracts rather than as employees. Contract work is not subject to the work hours based on the Labor Standards Law, but there are still fears of overwork. It will be necessary to consider effective ways to prevent this.