Half of researchers left major science institute Riken after contracts expired

The labor union at Riken, a major scientific research institute in Japan, says nearly half of the researchers whose contracts expired recently had to leave in spite of their wish to stay.

At Riken, 380 researchers and other officials saw their contracts reach their 10-year limit at the end of March. The workers' union has been requesting the continuation of their employment.

The union held a news conference on Thursday and said 184 of the 380 have left the institute, and some of them found posts at universities or firms.

The union also revealed that the 196 others remain employed at Riken, including those selected for projects with a limited period. It reported that some of them have been converted to clerical positions or demoted.

The union said it is problematic that people who had to leave Riken were not judged based on their research results. It calls on the institute to allow them to return to their former posts and provide stable employment.

Riken says it has been addressing the issue, such as eliminating the term limit in the employment contract. It also said contracts are based on an agreement between both sides, and it considers there were no post changes or demotions that the employees did not want.

In Japan, many universities and research institutes set employment terms to up to 10 years because laws stipulate that employment could be switched to a permanent post if an employee so wishes, after working over 10 years. At Riken, some of its researchers were also working under such contracts.