‘I feel disposable’: Thousands of scientists’ jobs at risk in Japan – Nature.com

by | Jul 19, 2022 | Jobs

Dozens of research teams at RIKEN’s network of basic research laboratories will be closed down early next year.Credit: Kyodo News Stills/Getty

Thousands of researchers and university staff members in Japan are at risk of losing their jobs next year because of apparent loopholes in employment laws implemented a decade ago. Researchers are alarmed at the scale of the potential job losses, and say the cuts would have a devastating effect on the country’s research capacity.The laws, introduced in 2013 and 2014, were designed to give researchers on fixed-term contracts some long-term job security, by putting a ten-year time limit on such agreements. After that time, employees have the right, in principle, to request a permanent position. Next April marks a decade since the first of the rules came in. But some researchers on temporary contracts are finding that their institutions are terminating their employment — or asking them to resign — just before they are eligible for permanent jobs.There are roughly 3,100 researchers on fixed-term contracts at dozens of national universities and research centres who will have been employed for ten years by the end of March, according to Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Some of those people might be made permanent employees, but many will lose their jobs, say researchers.And the figure could be an underestimate: lawmaker Tomoko Tamura, a member of the opposition Japanese Communist Party who sits in the upper house of the National Diet, says that her own analysis of the ministry’s findings suggests that up to 4,500 researchers might lose their jobs by the end of March.Researchers warn that if the potential job losses go ahead, the effect could be devastating for Japanese science. Enrolment in doctoral programmes has been declining since 2003. That, combined with researchers losing their jobs because of the ten-year limit on fixed-term employment, will create a major proble …

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