• Kyodo


The Abe administration on Friday approved a bill that would revise the labor law to hopefully improve conditions for part-time workers and plans to submit it to the Diet this legislative session.

Current law requires employers to treat part-time and regular workers equally if they are engaged in the same work, are subject to the same kind of job transfers, including relocation, and are hired indefinitely.

The proposed revision is designed to apply this same rule to part-timers hired on fixed-term employment contracts.

While current law covers only about 200,000 of the roughly 14 million part-time workers as of 2012, the revision would cover another 100,000, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

Employers would be required to inform newly hired part-timers how to access the company’s welfare facilities, as well as how they can switch to regular employment.

Employers would also be required to provide staff that part-timers can consult about their work conditions.

Prefectural labor bureaus, upon receiving grievances from part-timers, would investigate their workplace to determine if there are any violations of the law, and, if so, would offer supervision or recommendations.

The names of companies that don’t comply with bureau recommendations would be publicized.

The number of workers hired on a temporary basis grew in the 1990s, and so did their demands for better conditions. That led to a revision in 2007 of the part-time labor law aimed to narrow the gap in working conditions between regular and nonregular workers.

The proposed revision would be the first change since then.

Experts say improving hiring conditions and enhancing incentives for part-time workers has become urgent now that their numbers have grown to 14 million.

Although the revision would boost the number of part-timers treated as regular employees, experts point out that further relaxation of the requirements that qualify part-timers for such improved treatment is necessary.

A health ministry survey in 2012 found that part-timers’ monthly salaries averaged 56.9 percent of those for regular employees. It also revealed there are many companies where part-timers don’t have the same access to company dining facilities and dressing rooms as regular employees.

Mio Abe, a labor law expert, pointed out that the 100,000 part-timers expected to benefit from the revision is still less than 1 percent of the total.

“Part-timers would still face a high hurdle (to qualify for better employment conditions),” said the associate professor at Yamagata University. “This (revision to the law) would only have a limited impact on the employment conditions of part-timers.”

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