In the United States, the term temp worker does not carry with it the negative connotation it does in some countries. Temp work has evolved from conjuring images of grueling labor and scraping by, to signify flexibility, autonomy and valuable career experience.
However, the recent tragedy in Japan has brought into focus examples of temporary labor in which workers do not enjoy the same safety and standards.
Many untrained temp workers in Japan are incented with higher pay than they’re accustomed to, to take on jobs considered dangerous and highly unpleasant to the average worker. For example, thousands of temp workers make up much of the labor force behind the nuclear power plants in Japan, including the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi.
Pre-tsunami, temp workers there were exposed daily to high levels of radiation and other life-threatening working conditions. Yet, their pay is still comparatively low and they receive little to no benefits.
Many of these temporary laborers experience healthy problems including cancer which are probably direct results of their working conditions, yet because these cases are difficult to prove, few workers claim workers compensation for their illnesses.
Post-tsumani, according Tokyo Electric, about 45 out of 300 people working in perilous conditions to contain and repair damage to the nuclear power plant are temp workers.