Three Common Types of Employment in Japan

There are many types of employment in Japan. If you’re new to Japan, you might not be sure about the differences. In this article, we’ll look at three of the most common types of employment in Japan: dispatch, contract, and permanent.

A quick note to say “thank you” to Jobs in Japan for sponsoring this article!

Intro to Types of Employment

Before starting, keep in mind that these are not exact, legal terms. Many companies use their own terms. In addition, there are many other types of employment not mentioned here.

However, it is good to know these terms. They will allow you to clarify your work conditions before you accept an offer.

Without further delay, let’s look at three common types of employment in Japan.

Dispatch (派遣社員 / Haken Shain)

One common kind of employment is dispatch (派遣社員 / haken shain), sometimes also called temp work.

Dispatch employees are employed by a dispatch company. The dispatch company will then send their employees to work at a different company for a limited period of time.

You’ll typically work at that company anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, depending on your contract.

While the process is different at each dispatch company, you will often be able to apply for positions that interest you through the dispatch company. The dispatch company will then send you if you are a good match.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of dispatch positions.

Dispatch Pros

  • Usually less responsibility (and possibly less stress) than permanent positions, with clearly defined duties
  • Usually less overtime
  • Generally a less strenuous recruitment process than permanent positions (often you’ll only be interviewed once by the dispatch company)
  • Some dispatch positions may lead to permanent positions.
  • The dispatch company offers a lot of support. For example, they do almost all negotiations with the company you’ll be sent to and can help you find different employment after your contract ends.

Dispatch Cons

  • Unstable (Your contract might not be renewed.)
  • Basically no room for promotion
  • Usually paid much less than permanent positions (usually hourly instead of monthly or yearly and typically no bonus)
  • Very few benefits (some may not even provide transportation allowance)

While there are some major drawbacks, employment laws are always changing. Take a look at information regarding rights for limited term employees at the General Union website.

My Experience with Dispatch

When I first came to Japan, it was through a dispatch ALT (assistant language teacher) company. (Many ALT positions can be found through job boards such as Jobs in Japan.) The ALT work itself was fun and laid back. However, in my case, there would have been unpaid gaps of time in between dispatches. This is one of the main reasons I switched over to contract work.

Contract (契約社員 / Keiyaku Shain)

Another common type of employment is contract (契約社員 / keiyaku shain).

Contract employment usually refers to direct employment by a company (instead of through a dispatch company). Like dispatch work, this employment is for a limited amount of time, from a few months to a few years.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of contract positions.

Contract Pros

  • Usually less responsibility than permanent but more responsibility than dispatch positions
  • Sometimes less overtime than permanent positions
  • Some contract positions may lead to permanent positions.
  • Can negotiate directly with the company regarding your terms
  • May have some benefits (such as transportation allowance)

Contract Cons

  • Unstable (Your contract might not be renewed.)
  • Less room for advancement than permanent positions
  • Usually paid less than permanent positions (tends to be monthly and may or may not have bonus)
  • Tends to have fewer benefits than permanent positions
  • Unlike dispatch, you have to negotiate directly with the company, which may be stressful

As mentioned above, employment laws are always changing. Take a look at information regarding rights for limited term employees at the General Union website. As noted in the Jobs in Japan podcast with the General Union, it is important to know your rights.

My Experience with Contract

In my experience, my duties during contract employment were more fulfilling than the dispatch position. I was also paid better and received a lump-sum resignation allowance upon quitting. However, it was still unstable. Thus, I started looking for a permanent position. Luckily, I eventually found a contract position that led into a permanent position.

Permanent (正社員 / Seishain)

Many consider permanent (正社員 / seishain) positions to be the most desirable form of employment.

Unlike dispatch and contract positions, permanent positions don’t have a set period when employment will end (excluding retirement age). You are hired directly by the company and generally have the option to work there your whole life.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of permanent positions.

Permanent Pros

  • Generally a lot more responsibility and possibility for promotion
  • Very stable (Most companies want permanent employees to stay for life.)
  • Better pay (generally monthly or yearly with bonuses)
  • Many more benefits (depends on the company, but they may offer discount clubs, DC pension, stock options, gym membership, etc.)

Permanent Cons

  • Generally more responsibility, which may mean more stress
  • The company tends to have more control over your life. Depending on the company and your conditions, you may be sent to another office in Japan or overseas long-term.
  • Often more overtime and sometimes more weekend or holiday work

My Permanent Experience

In permanent positions, I’ve had a lot more responsibility, which has been more fulfilling. My salary has also been much better. At the same time, there’s somewhat more overtime and quite a bit more stress than dispatch and contract work. So there are definite tradeoffs.


These are three of the most common types of employment in Japan. I hope this article was helpful!

What type of job are you looking for in Japan?

How has your experience been with the different types of employment in Japan?

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