Freeter is one of several working styles in Japan, and they are non-regular employees.
The biggest difference between a freeter and a regular employee is the term of employment. The term of employment of a freeter is set in advance, while that of full-time employees is not fixed.
In modern Japan, not a few people choose the working style of freeters. We think the employment situation in Japan is very interesting for foreigners living in Japan.
In this article, we will discuss freeter and explain its concept and current situation in Japan.
- What is Freeter?
- Difference Between Freeter and NEET
- Freeter and Japanese Society
What is Freeter?
The term “freeter” does not exist in foreign countries and is unique to Japan. Let’s check what a freeter is and what kind of work styles is it.
Origin of the Name “Freeter”
In the mid-1980s, the term “free-arbeiter” was born. It is a coined word that combines “Free” in English and “Arbeit,” which means labor in German. After that, free-arbeiters changed to “freeters.”
It is a Japanese-like word that is good at shortening words such as “Konbini” for convenience stores and “Sumaho” for smartphones.
Background of the Birth of Freeter
Looking back at Japan in the 1980s, it was an era when Japan became the world’s largest trade surplus country. Especially since the latter half of the 1980s, the bubble economy has caused many people to feel a boom.
In that time, chain stores such as convenience stores and fast food were overflowing in Japan, and the number of part-time workers was increasing. Even if someone chooses to be a temporary worker, there were still many employment places that he/she can enroll in when he/she wanted to work as a regular employee. These were the reasons why the number of people who chose to work as freeters increased.
What is the Definition of Freeter?
Freeters are generally those who work as part-timers.
The Cabinet Office website describes freeters as follows.
Translation:Quote source: 第2節 若年無業者，フリーター，ひきこもり｜平成27年版子供・若者白書（全体版） – 内閣府
Freeters are aged 15-34 and male graduates or female graduates(unmarried), who meet either of the followings:
<1>A person who works as a part-time job
<2>A person who is unemployed and looking for a part-time job
<3>Persons who are not working, not performing housework or attending school, and want to work as part-timers
When counting freeters with the definition above, the number has been almost flat over the past few years, reaching 1.79 million in 2014.
From this, freeter refers to people who are 15 to 34 years old and do not go to school or perform housework. Students and housemakers are not called freeters, even if they work part-time.
Part-time workers are defined as follows.
Translation:Quote source: さまざまな雇用形態｜厚生労働省
A part-time worker is a worker who has a shorter working time per week than regular employees who are employed at the same place of business (in the part-time labor law, it is called a “short-time worker”).
Why Do People Choose to Be Freeters?
There are various reasons to choose to be a freeter. It ranges from positive things to passive things.
To understand freeters, let’s look at an example of why people choose it.
Easy to Control Working Hours and Days
A big advantage of freeter is its freedom. There are many workplaces where you can make requests for the time of day and the day of the week, which makes it easy to balance work and personal life.
Easy to Work at Multiple Companies
Except for some companies in Japan, many corporates still have internal rules prohibiting side jobs for regular employees. However, if you are a freeter, the rule is not that strict.
One of the advantages of freeters is that it is easy to earn living expenses at one company and get experience in another company in an industry where you are interested at the same time.
Less Responsible for Work
Of course, freeters also have to work responsibly. But compared to full-time employees, there are fewer tasks or interactions with external companies, so we can say freeters have less responsibility.
Besides, the fact that there are no transfers and the scope of work is often constant is another reason for choosing a freeter.
In this way, freeters can work relatively freely. However, on the other hand, it is also true that some people have no choice but to become a freeter because of less opportunity to be a full-time employee.
Difference Between Freeter and NEET
“NEET” is a word that is easily confused with freeter. Here, we will explain the difference.
To begin with, NEET is an acronym for “Not in Education, Employment or Training,” and was born in 1999 in England. Before that, it was called “Status Zero.”
In Japan, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare defines NEET as follows.
Translation:Quote source: ニートの状態にある若年者の実態及び支援策に関する調査研究報告書
The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare defines NEET as “a single non-labor force (those who do not work or seek employment as unemployed people) aged 15 to 34 who are not mainly attending school or mainly household chores.”
Just like the original English, it is a word that refers to people who are not in education, employment, or training.
Age is defined as 15 to 34 years old, same as freeter, but there is a big difference in “working or not.”
Freeter and Japanese Society
Here we will introduce how freeter is positioned in Japanese society.
Number and Proportion of Freeters
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications “Employment rate and the number of freeters” Chart 2-(1)-2, the number of freeters has been decreasing for five consecutive years since 2004. But in 2009, the number has turned to an increase and reached 1.83 million in the following year (Chart 2-(1)-2).
Also, it can be seen that the proportion of freeters has been on an increasing trend since 2008 (Chart 2-(1)-3).
Social Supports for Freeters
So what kind of approach does Japanese society take to the increasing number of freeters?
According to the data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications mentioned earlier, the percentage of young non-regular employees, including freeters, is high, and they said they need to give priority to supporting their regular employment.
In response to this situation, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare stated the following regarding the employment of young people and has declared that it will promote employment support.
Translation:Quote source: 若年者雇用対策 ｜厚生労働省
Also, the number of freeters has been around 1.55 million, and the percentage of non-regular workers who answered “because there is no regular employee work” as a reason for getting non-regular employment is higher in younger people than in other ages.
Therefore, in the counselor’s office for youth and career development support,
1. Matters concerning employment support for new and former graduates
2. Matters concerning employment support for freeters and young unemployed
By promoting various measures such as these, we aim to realize a society in which young people, who will be responsible for the future of Japan, can work with peace of mind, fully exercise their motivation and abilities.
Currently, in Japan, an employment support counter (Hello Work) is set up so that you can search for job information and receive interview guidance. The use of Hello Work is free.
This time, we introduced freeter, which is one of the ways of working in Japan. Freeters are people aged 15 to 34 who are working part-time or are looking for a job.
There are many people who prefer their freeter work style and prioritize work-life balance. It may be important not to choose a freeter just because it is easy, but to gain experience and skills during the meantime to prepare for the future.