The Labor, Health and Welfare Ministry is preparing a bill to protect young people employed by so-called black companies, which treat workers like throwaways through abusive labor practices. Because the legislation is an important first step toward the eradication of such practices, the ministry should strive to make the new measures as effective as possible. The exploitation of workers, especially young ones, by employers through such practices as excessively heavy workloads, long working hours, low salaries and failure to pay overtime wages has become a serious social issue. In some cases, workers suffer from mental illness or are driven to suicide.

The government has taken some steps on the issue, including the disclosure of business categories that have a high percentage of workers who quit within three years of being hired — an indication of abusive treatment of young employees. The bill, to be submitted to the current Diet session, is a response to complaints that the measures have been lukewarm.

One of the new measures will change the current rule that the ministry's Hello Work employment security offices must, in principle, accept all job notices from companies. In fiscal 2012, there were 7,783 cases in which workers filed complaints with or sought advice from these offices after finding that the actual working conditions differed from those described in the job notices. About 40 percent of the cases concerned either wages or working hours. In some cases, new employees were told to do jobs entirely different from those described in the notices, or were forced to accept irregular positions even though the notices offered regular full-time jobs.