With the rise in female employees and the graying of society, more companies are allowing staff to reject relocations without risking promotions as Japan’s work environment slowly grows more family-friendly.
The efforts, which include paying extra allowances to those workers who do accept a relocation, are being supported by the government, which is working out new guidelines for such matters.
According to a survey by the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training, a think tank for the labor ministry, 34 percent of companies with a workforce of 300 or more said most regular employees are subject to relocation.
While 46 percent of the firms said they had transfers involving at least one female worker over the past year, a separate survey by a Chuo University research team on female workers showed that 58 percent of them do not want to be relocated to a different office.
When the team held a seminar in Tokyo in late November with around 60 staff members from companies’ personnel sections, many participants pointed to hurdles to employee relocations, with one saying that many women refuse transfers due to child-rearing.
“There is a sense of displeasure among workers as male workers carry a heavier workload,” another participant said.
A personnel section official from a manufacturer said women accept transfers until they get married or give birth, when they “feel desperate and quit.”
An official from a homebuilder said there is a “glass ceiling” at the firm, with workers unable to get promotions if they decline transfers.
Emiko Takeishi, a professor at Hosei University and an expert on female labor conditions, said the current relocation system is at odds with the diversity of the workforce and the goal of promoting female empowerment.
Given such a reality, supermarket chain operator Aeon Retail Co. is planning to adopt a new personnel system under which some workers who are locally recruited and do not transfer can still be promoted to store manager or other key posts.
While Aeon Retail, a unit of Aeon Co., will pay extra allowances to workers who agree to transfers, both types of workers will be treated fairly in terms of promotion.
“There is no relation between job capability and the fact that the worker can move to anywhere across the country,” an Aeon Retail official said.
Workers also can switch their job status to being open to transfers after child rearing, according to the company.
Mos Store Co., a wholly owned unit of fast food chain operator Mos Food Services Inc., adopted a system in fiscal 2014 under which workers can choose whether to accept a transfer without discrimination over future prospects.
At Mos Store, the “N workers” who are subject to nationwide transfers receive 10 percent more in basic monthly salary than “A workers” who may transfer but only in certain designated districts.
The salary of “J workers” who do not transfer is ¥10,000 lower than that of “A workers,” the hamburger chain said.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is preparing to craft guidelines on transfers in March.
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