Accepted Paper:

Haken interpreters in Japan: 'premium' office flower?  

Author:

Julija Knezevic (RMIT University)

Paper short abstract:

This project is broadly situated in the area of ‘women and employment’. It explores the challenges of in house multi-party interpreting setting (Takimoto, 2009) as well as the working conditions of women in Japan who are employed in one specific labour category.

Paper long abstract:

Based on government surveys and questionnaires on the level of work satisfaction Hiroki Sato argues that changing employment practices in Japan are borne out of the need for economic development and out of individual choices. The study records fairly high satisfaction levels among temp workers (Sato et al 2001, p. 179). There has, however, been no academic inquiry that looks specifically at haken interpreters working in 'in house' settings. Given the 'premium' (symbolic) values attached to the interpreter as a professional, highly educated and skilled worker, interpreters are least expected to be found in the category of work associated with precariousness. Thus, by examining the in house interpreters who are a part of the office haken workers (the 'mainstream' of haken employment) and an occupation to which many women aspire to, the study aims to challenge the rhetoric of 'women are better of' by portraying a shared precariousness with other 'officially recognised' haken (i.

e. blue-collar males).Sato (2004) estimates that there are 'around 200' freelance interpreters in Japan who tend to combine academic (and other) work with interpreting practicedmainly in media and government-related assignments. Full-time interpreting work seems to be available only in the haken work category either through general or special temporary help agencies. In-house interpreters (haken) are hired to work on specific projects or for an executive in a given company (MNCs) where interpreting settings can be sensitive or "a nightmare for the interpreter" (Gurner 2001, pp. 117-20).

Panel P127
Gender and unfinished modernity project: 19th century reforms and 21st century reflections (Commission on Anthropology of Women)