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September 9, 2009

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Toyota boosts work force as Prius sales rise

TOYOTA is hiring 800 contract workers in Japan in its first recruitment drive in more than a year amid signs of a global recovery led by brisk sales of its Prius hybrid, the world's No. 1 auto maker said yesterday.

Most will start working next month at Toyota Motor Corp's Tsutsumi plant in central Japan, which makes the Prius and other models for the Japanese market.

Toyota now employs 1,300 contract workers in Japan, down from the peak of 11,600 employed in June 2005 when auto sales were booming. Such workers are hired for limited periods unlike the 70,000 full-time workers in Japan, who are guaranteed "lifetime employment."

Toyota reduced its contract workers amid the global slump in auto sales by not renewing their contracts or promoting them to full-time. The Japanese car maker employs more than 300,000 workers worldwide.

Toyota has been struggling since global sales plunged last year. It stopped hiring contract workers in Japan in June last year.

The maker of the Lexus luxury model and Camry sedan racked up its worst loss ever of 436.9 billion yen (US$4.6 billion) for the fiscal year ended March 31. It has projected an even worse fiscal year through March 2010, although analysts are expecting that to be revised to a better forecast since now there are signs sales may be picking up.

Toyota has been reducing workers in other nations to cut costs. Last month, it said it would shut the California factory it ran with General Motors for 25 years - the first time it has ever closed a major auto assembly plant.

The factory, which employs 4,600 workers, is due to close in March 2010 unless another company steps in to rescue it.


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