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A House of Representatives committee approved a bill Wednesday to expand benefits to nonregular employees whose job contracts have not been renewed amid the recession.

The Labor and Welfare Committee OK’d the bill to revise the employment insurance law after altering part of the government-drafted version. The bill is expected to clear the Lower House plenary session Thursday.

The proposed legislation is expected to be enacted by the end of the month.

The bill is being deliberated at the Diet at a time when the practice of abruptly ending nonregular workers’ employment contracts has become a serious social issue as the economic downturn deepens.

The bill would extend the provision of benefits to job-losing nonregular workers for up to 60 days beyond a set payment period of 90 to 150 days.

The bill would also enable nonregular employees to receive jobless benefits after paying insurance premiums for six months instead of one year at present. This step is expected to spur an additional 1.5 million nonregular workers to subscribe to the employment insurance plan.

The Lower House committee moved the day for putting the revised employment insurance law into effect from April 1, as proposed by the government, to March 31, the final day of fiscal 2008, when many nonregular workers are expected to be dismissed.

The bill would lower the rate of jobless insurance premiums a worker and employer divide equally from 1.2 percent of the employee’s wage to 0.8 percent as a temporary measure for fiscal 2009.

The measure, part of the government’s economy-boosting package, would reduce premium payments by companies and households by about ¥640 billion in the year.

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