2017: Abe's Campaign to Reform the Way of Work

Quelle:  The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 15 | Issue 23 | Number 3 | Nov 20, 2017
Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Japan Focus.

Abe Shinzō's Campaign to Reform the Japanese Way of Work
Shinji Kojima, Scott North, Charles Weathers

Prime Minister Abe Shinzō has made Work Style Reform (hatarakikata kaikaku) part of his core policy agenda, promising above all to remedy the Japanese way of work's two greatest problems: dangerously long work hours and grossly unequal wage gaps between regular and non-regular workers. However, critics charge that the proposals will likely aggravate these problems, given that labor policymaking is dominated by conservative business and political leaders bent on deregulation. This paper examines the current Work Style Reform proposals, explaining howthe work hour reduction and equal pay for equal work proposals are being promoted to the public, and why they ultimately fail as reforms from the worker point of view. Despite these serious problems, the government's effective marketing has helped to defuse potential resistance and the reform plans may become law in 2018. ...

Top-down labor reform plans
Japanese business leaders have long insisted that rigidities in the Japanese Employment System are a drag on economic performance, so it was natural for Abe Shinzō to renew his long-standing commitment to labor reform as a core policy goal upon becoming prime minister for the second time in December 2012. Abe's original labor reform agenda emphasized liberalization of agency temporary work (now accomplished), easier dismissal of regular employees, and deregulation of work hours. But the government has continuously repackaged its employment reform agenda, and last year released it as Hatarakikata Kaikaku, or Work Style Reform. The revised agenda still made addressing the nation's long work hours one of its central objectives, but suddenly added eliminating unequal and unfair pay gaps to its priorities. 

Conditions are propitious for reform. Unemployment has fallen to 2.8%, and severe labor shortages are forcing some employers to raise pay for non-regular workers, or even, on occasion, to convert them into properly paid regular employees. The list of proposed reforms is long and comprehensive, but it prioritizes the alleviation of long work hours and drastic inequality in pay and status, clearly the two biggest problems in the nation's employment system. The former results in thousands of deaths and disabilities yearly, while structural inequality means that millions of workers and families live on the edge of poverty. Furthermore, both problems are rightly regarded as obstacles to greater gender equality in workplaces, and to raising the country's low birthrate -- long work hours make it difficult for childrearing women to pursue professional careers, and low incomes discourage many couples from having as many children as they would like. ...

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