Increase in Rehiring of Former Employees in Japan

TOKYO, Dec. 31 – As Japan continues to grapple with a severe labor shortage, a growing number of Japanese companies are embracing a new trend of rehiring former employees who had previously left before reaching retirement age. The move is not only aimed at addressing the acute labor shortage but also to provide a second chance to former workers who are willing to return to their old employers.

Traditionally, in Japan, quitting a job has been synonymous with severing all ties with the employer. However, this long-held belief is diminishing as more companies are opening their doors to former employees seeking another shot at working for them.

The trend is gaining momentum as more individuals like Sachiko Kido, 40, rejoin their former employers. Kido had left Tokyo-based Kirin Brewery Co. to pursue a career in public relations but had a change of heart amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. She decided to return to the company to engage in a wider range of business operations.

Kirin Holdings Co., the parent company of Kirin Brewery, previously only rehired individuals who had left due to reasons such as childbirth or spouse transfers. However, in 2020, the company removed these conditions and has since welcomed back five returning employees, including Kido.

Ryohin Keikaku Co., the operator of Muji brand daily goods shops, has been actively promoting the re-employment of former workers through its “comeback recruitment” scheme since 2016. In fiscal 2023, a total of 211 people, including former part-time employees, have returned to the company.

Furthermore, companies are leveraging services to facilitate networking between businesses and former employees. For instance, Tokyo-based job information provider Recruit Co. introduced Alumy, a service that manages information on individuals who have quit their jobs and maintains regular contact with them on behalf of their former employers. Over 100 companies have already adopted this service since its launch two years ago.

The Japan Post Holdings Co. group, with over 200,000 regular employees, also joined this trend in 2022. The group aims to rehire former employees as full-time workers or part-timers and establish partnerships with them. An official of the postal service group emphasized the importance of maintaining good relations with former employees to enhance corporate value.

According to Motohiro Morishima, a human resources management expert, the rising trend of job changes and mid-career employment is driving companies to increase the rehiring of former employees due to the lower associated risks. Morishima also stressed the importance for companies to allow employees to gain diverse experiences while working and to depart from firms comfortably when they decide to leave.

As companies in Japan continue to face labor shortages, the re-employment of former employees is not only providing a solution to the talent crunch but also offering individuals a second chance to restart their careers with their old employers, thereby creating a win-win situation for both parties.


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