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An advisory panel to the labor minister said Wednesday it will recommend an easing of conditions for government subsidies to companies that introduce work sharing, ministry officials said.

At present, companies must introduce work sharing at the entire corporate level. This means all employees must work a shorter day, by one hour or more, for the company to receive subsidies.

But the Labor Policy Council will soon recommend to Chikara Sakaguchi, minister of health, labor and welfare, that the ministry start paying grants to companies that partially introduce work sharing, the officials said.

For instance, such grants will be provided to companies that reduce working hours for production line workers only, instead of cutting hours for all workers, they said.

The size of the subsidies will be between half and two-thirds of allowances companies pay their employees as compensation for their reduced working hours, they said.

The officials said the ministry will implement the change in the subsidy conditions June 1, and will maintain the revised conditions until March 31, 2005.

Government, labor and management representatives agreed March 29 to promote job sharing as a way to deal with the severe unemployment situation.

They defined job sharing as reduction of work hours aimed at maintaining and creating employment.

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