Private Employment Services and Temporary Labour Migration

―The Case of Japanese Temporary Staffing Firms in East and Southeast Asia―


Karen Shire

(University of Duisburg-Essen)

Date/Time November 16, 2017 6:30 PM
Location Room 549 5th floor, Akamon Sogo Kenkyuto Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo  [map]
Abstract In the wake of Japanese foreign direct investments in East and Southeast Asia, and a declining labour market at home, the Japanese temporary staffing industry has established a strong network of capacities for the recruitment and placement of temporary labour for client enterprises throughout East and Southeast Asia. Increasingly these placements in host countries involve cross-border labour recruitment, for example, with private employment services managing the return migration of Chinese students and workers in Japan to Japanese clients in Beijing and Shanghai, and the transfer of staff from Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam to client enterprises back in Japan or in other East and Southeast Asian countries. The presentation covers three aspects of the emerging cross-border labour market intermediated by staffing agencies in East and Southeast Asia. First, regulatory changes are traced at the international and national level in East and Southeast Asia to chart the opportunities for the private staffing industry in the region. Together with the world-wide liberalization of employment contracts and market transformations in former socialist and newly industrialised countries, these changes are shown to open new sources of skilled labour and to create a legal basis for private employment services to manage temporary migration. The second part of the paper examines how Japanese staffing agencies draw on different sets of regulations to establish their services in China, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam, drawing on field research about the activities of temporary staffing agencies in China, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. The final part of the presentation turns to analyse the practices of staffing agencies in the cross-border intermediation of temporary staff in host countries and across borders. The evidence shows that staffing agencies focus on the cross-border placement of skilled labour, and often intervene in the production of work skills through internship programs and language education. The evidence also shows that staffing agencies strategically work around regulations and restrictions in host countries to invent staffing practices, which circumvent legal restrictions on private employment services. The research reported aims to contribute to an economic sociological theory of transnational labour markets, and the key role played by the private management of temporary labour migration.
Bio Karen Shire holds the Chair in Comparative Sociology at the University Duisburg-Essen (UDE), Germany. Her research examines transnational labour markets and gender-based inequalities in the knowledge economy. She is currently researching gender imbalance in leadership in politics, economy and science, in inter-regional comparison in East Asia and Europe.