RIKEN to offer 40% of researchers long-term employment

The Yomiuri Shimbun RIKEN, one of the nation’s largest research institutes, has decided to increase its percentage of researchers with long-term employment to 40 percent in the future, according to sources.

The government-affiliated research institute will start a new scheme in April to provide long-term employment up through the mandatory retirement age of 60 for selected researchers currently under limited-time contracts.

The new measure is meant to develop human resources over the long term by ensuring stable life and working conditions for outstanding new and mid-career researchers.

Such a reform by the nation’s top-level institute will likely influence the hiring of researchers in academic circles, as state-run universities and other organizations have been facing severe financial conditions and increasing the number of people working under limited-time contracts, particularly among younger researchers. Limited-time contracts usually last just several years.

Of its 2,930 researchers, RIKEN had about 2,600 working under limited-time contracts as of April last year. Among such employees, researchers in leadership positions will be the first group eligible to apply for the long-term employment status under the new scheme. Applicants will be screened and, if selected, have their contracts changed in April to allow them to continue to work until they turn 60.

RIKEN will then apply the new measure to rank-and-file researchers — including younger ones — while also increasing the number of recruits eligible for long-term contracts.

It has been said that limited-term contracts can help researchers develop their careers by competing with each other as they change workplaces every several years. However, there is criticism that limited-term employment discourages young people from pursuing a career in academic circles because this approach makes it difficult for them to envision their future.

More than 60 percent of researchers under 40 working at state-run universities — or about 10,600 — have limited-term contracts, according to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.Speech

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