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2014年12月13日 (土)

雇用問題 非正規の処遇改善に具体策を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Parties must come up with concrete steps to buoy nonregular employees
雇用問題 非正規の処遇改善に具体策を

Improving working conditions for the steadily growing number of nonregular employees, and rectifying long work hours to create pleasant job environments for all — these are major challenges in the field of employment.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been emphasizing that the number of people on payrolls has risen by 1 million since the change of government in December 2012. Opposition parties have been criticizing this, arguing that the job growth is solely due to an increase in the number of nonregular workers. The prime minister has drawn up additional data for a rebuttal, stating “the number of regular employees has in fact increased.”

The ruling and opposition camps are waging a fierce war of words over the current state of employment in the ongoing election campaign for the House of Representatives. Both blocs, however, agree on the importance of improving labor conditions for nonregular employees.

The percentage of nonregular workers among the nation’s employees has risen markedly since the 1990s, reaching as high as 37 percent in 2013.

There are, of course, people who prefer flexible work arrangements. On the other hand, that nonregular employment has resulted in people working in unstable jobs for low wages, making it difficult for them to rise in their careers, is also a reality. Many people must abandon their hopes of getting married or having children for financial reasons, which is a major factor in the country’s low birth rate.

These are all problems that cannot be overlooked.

The Liberal Democratic Party and its ruling coalition partner Komeito have pledged in their election platform to expedite measures to help nonregular workers who wish to make a transition to regular employment. The ruling parties are also promising to boost government support for young people’s job search activities and for businesses that offer friendly working environments for young employees. These policies should continue to be put into force.

Status boost for temporary staff

Opposition parties including the Democratic Party of Japan, the Japan Innovation Party and the Party for Future Generations have taken a stand calling for improvement in the working conditions of nonregular workers, by introducing the principle of “equal pay for work of same kind,” to eliminate wage differentials based on type of employment.

It is extremely hard to achieve working conditions for nonregular employees who get paid by the hour that are equal to those of regular workers, who have been under a seniority-based wage system that presumes lifetime employment. The opposition parties must come up with specific processes to realize the same-job-same-wage principle.

Another issue in the election battle is what would be best for workers from temporary job placement agencies, which provide a type of nonregular employment. The government and the ruling parties still aim to revise the Temporary Staffing Services Law.

The revision bill that was aborted due to the lower chamber’s dissolution for the general election contained measures to abolish restrictions on how long temporary staff can be used, while creating arrangements to provide stable employment for such workers and enhance their job skills.

The DPJ, the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party have opposed the proposed law revision on the grounds that it would lead to an increase in the number of people working as temps for life.

The current state of affairs involving temporary employees can probably not be resolved merely by viewing such work from a negative viewpoint. Boosting the job status of temp workers should be given top priority.

Regarding regulations on working hours, the government is poised to introduce a system in which it will not be necessary for companies to pay overtime. The system is designed to encourage working with high efficiency during shorter hours, but the DPJ and others have raised objections, arguing that the government plan would further aggravate the issue of long working hours.

It is also essential to address the challenge of rectifying long working hours from the standpoint of empowering women, which is being called for by all parties.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 12, 2014)Speech


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