(HARA Eiji, PPPC President)
The Revised Temp Labor Act is becoming one of the controversial issues in the current Diet session. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan and some media have taken critical attitudes to the draft bill that this is an excessive “deregulation” in accordance with requests of the business side which desires to make use of temp workers more easily.
However, the content of the revised bill is, in short, a specification of the rules; one that attempts to transfer the existing, complicated and ambiguous rules into more clarified ones. As a matter of fact, it entails not only the “deregulating” contents but also “reregulating” aspects.
The existing Act has divided the occupations into “26 expert types” (digital-device operating, secretary, interpreter, etc.) and the “others”, to which having applied different rules.
l There is no limit of receiving temp workers in the 26 expert types
l There have been one-year limit (exceptionally three-years limit) in the others
Yet, there have been various questions to the existing distinction that how much can be fitted into the 26 occupations or whether the law applies when someone engaged into undescribed jobs, etc.; all rooting from the fact that the rules have been too unspecified and complicated. From the beginning, there has been an outdated aspect that operation of digital device has been considered as an expert duty.
In the revised bill this time, by abolishing the existing distinction of “26 expert jobs” and the “others” and it attempts to set
l Individual: maximum three years if the same worker kept working in the same office
l Office: maximum three years of accepting temp worker in the same office, yet, extendable after hearing opinions of majority in the office
Seemingly it can be regarded as a “reasonable improvement” of existing inadequacy in the current legislation. In the deregulation-reregulation spectrum,
l Reception of temp workers in the “other jobs” will be extendable with certain conditions,
l It entails a “reregulation” aspect in the reception of “26 expert jobs” by imposing new time limit
In the current extraordinary Diet session, while the opposition lawmakers have sought to raise the issue by repeating questions whether the temp workers will increase by this revision of the Act (Lower House Budget Committee on October 3), such arguments might not be constructive given the content of the bill mentioned above.
Rather, the point of discussion should be what to do with the issue of irregular employment as the next step to the “temporary improvement” this time.
It is absolutely doubtless that irregular employees are in severely unstable situations compared to the so-called regular workers and something must be done. The problem is how solutions are to be presented.
The first scenario is to deny irregular employments and to attempt to make all workers regular. Many of the legislations proposed and implemented in the DPJ administration basically originated from such perspectives.
However, there are points to be raised in this scenario.
l First, not-all irregular workers necessarily desire to be regular employees, and there are certain numbers of irregular workers who has chosen to be irregular employees by themselves (according to debate on October 3, the ratio is 50% in the government’ view and 40% in DPJ’s calculation).
l Making all irregular workers regular sounds like an effort to improve the employment situation, however, it may in turn deprive opportunities of many others in reality (in extreme cases, e.g., overall banning of irregular employment might create complete unemployment of many others because all the irregular workers cannot be regular at once).
Then the more realistic approach is the second scenario that dispels gap between the regular and irregular, i.e., penetrating the principle of “same job, same wage,” while admitting variety of labor.
While in Europe and others, the principle of “same job, same wage” is manifested in the general legislation, it is naturally perceived that there are gaps between irregular and regular in Japan. Efforts to solve the situation should be now discussed.
To add, the gap between irregular and regular does not only exist in the private sector, but also in the central government offices including the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare which has jurisdiction over the employment policy.
There is an advertisement for open recruitment of irregular employees in the website of MHLW that says \7,000-10,000/day for assistant or secretary duties. Needless to say, this is apart from the working conditions of the general government employees protected by job security and the National Personnel Authority (http://www.mhlw.go.jp/general/saiyo/hijoukin.html).
What to do with the irregular employment? Hot to attain the principle of “same job, same wage”? Solutions must be proposed, first by the central government ministries.
It is hopeful that discussions in eye of the drastic reform on this issue will be made in the Diet.
In the meantime, there are further challenges;
l Basically, it should seek attainment of “same job, same wage” principle and the regulations binding various ways of working should be eradicated
l Rather than “making all irregular regular,” it should seek “valuing various ways of working” + “prohibition of different treatments on irregular workers”
l “Valuing various ways of working” is also important from the view of increasing fluidity of the labor market. It is incorrect to assume that “all irregular desires to be regular”
l The issue of “prohibition of temp day laborer” left untouched.
Number of Temp Workers = 1.3 million (data released in March 2014)