politics

Abe pushes equal pay for temp workers to lift economy

49 Comments
By Tetsushi Kajimoto

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49 Comments
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It's kind of hard to do, when so many people will accept a low-paying job.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Whats unmentioned is how temp agencies, which place the temp workers and maintain them throughout the employment term, will often take 15 to 50% of the worker's take home pay, sometimes with a placement fee on top of that. So if someone gets 200,000 a month as a temp, in reality the employer pays about 230 to 300,000yen via the temp agency. So for temps to make equal pay, it means either employers must pay more than a regular worker (to include the agency fee), or the agencies must reduce or eliminate their fees. But as temp workers have increased so much recently (of note, thats due to a LDP initiative a few years back promoting a privatized labour market) it means the temp agencies have increased their power, and will certainly negate any attempt to reduce their profits.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Maybe a push for equity might get acceptance than equal pay for temp workers

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It's hard to do when Damenomics is depressing the economy and in turn people's paychecks,since companies are loath to increase salaries.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

an arrow flies FAST and straight, and shouldn't take years and years and years,,,

3 ( +4 / -1 )

and as soon as companies are forced to raise wages for temp workers, then they will hire fewer workers or let go many of the ones they hired for slave wages. this is just a populist trick to make it appear that abe really gives a crap about the average joe tanaka. in fact, his gov't has rolled back laws meant to ensure that temp workers are hired as regular employees after three years. companies can now renew temp contracts indefinitely. too many low info voters in japan because of a weak press.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Whats unmentioned is how temp agencies...

An easy reform. Cut out the structural (and parasitic) middleman.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

This is nothing but an empty promise before the elections that will in no way be implemented by Abe . It's all talk about " aims " and " goals " and " but there is zero concrete step planning / roadmap about how to actually implement it. LDP will do nothing to disadvantage it's business buddies over the average Taro. Never did. Yet they will be re-elected with a majority once again. Beyond hopeless.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

An easy reform. Cut out the structural (and parasitic) middleman

@SenseNotSoCommon sounds easy and intuitive for you and me, but you must have missed the part where I mentioned how the current proliferation of temp agencies is in fact due to the promotion of them by the LDP (which is Abe's party). What he's saying is lip service, and little or no reform will probably occur.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Once again a photo of Abe with his hand pointing diagonally upwards like some kind of hamfisted subliminal trick. Everything this buffoon does pulls the standard of living down for the average worker.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Stop telling companies and put laws in place to make companies... asking nicely isn't working and if this is a serious matter and you are concerned show some balls.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

What good is an arrow if you don't have balls....I mean....bow to let it fly????

Why not just limit temp contracts to 3 to 6 months? Then the company can fire or hire the worker.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

sounds easy and intuitive for you and me

Indeed Supey. I'm not naïve enough to infer Abe's minded to remove these parasites. He could if he wanted to - at the tap of a hanko - but it's much easier to feign sympathy and do nothing.

While others struggle to survive, Ginza positively thrives.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

This has never really made much sense to me, you know these companies that hire temp staff through agencies typically pay about double the salary of the staff all up, but the agency takes a massive cut. If you cut out these parasitic agencies you'd get savings for companies and higher wages for staff

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The job market is already in transition with jobs going unfilled With a declining birthdate employers will find that they have to raise rates or go out of business.....

4 ( +4 / -0 )

More lip-service laws coming up!

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Oh Abe schmabe! I get so sick of hearing all his hollow promises and now, less than a month before the election his cup runeth over with excrement! He's been in office for four flipping years and the only things that have changed are, he gave corporations tax cuts and increased sales tax for the minions. Show me the money Abe!!!!! We are still waiting on his welfare and family support reforms as well as his promised salary increases. And, where are these stimulus packages we keep hearing about? Why do people keep voting for him and his party of liars and thieves?

9 ( +11 / -2 )

The Temp companies that businesses request temp workers are to blame as they must make money.

There needs to be a media out there that allows those seeking temp work leading to full time work without the middle man that takes 20- 30% of the actual pay.

Kapish?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

But as temp workers have increased so much recently (of note, thats due to a LDP initiative a few years back promoting a privatized labour market) it means the temp agencies have increased their power

Yep, it was Koizumi and his Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy, Takenaka Heizō. Takenaka resigned from politics in 2005 and returned to academia at Keio University.

And where is he now? He's chairman of Pasona, Japan's second largest temp-staff agency.

You couldn't make it up.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

The problem with equal pay for temp workers is that there are two ways to reach this goal: 1) raise the wages of temp workers or 2) lower the pay of regular workers. Guess which one I fear will happen?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

This ball started rolling during Koizumi's term. I visit a lot of factories and starting in the early 2000s temp workers started to be more and more the norm. Not a huge fan of Abe but at least something is being put on the table

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Tokyo-centric reporting again.....people down here and other places in Japan would kill for an hourly job that pay's 200,000 per month. Full-time salaried workers are happy to be taking home 140,000 to 160,000 per month.

Not all is the same throughout Japan and I get rather annoyed that people are led to believe that her's might be the norm when it really isn't, not even close.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Eaual pay is not enough. For insecure jobs, companies must pay more than to regular employees.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

I demand equal pay to Masazoe!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

This all sounds wonderful but is not going to happen. It is telling that just 9% of businesses are saying it is realistic.

What Abe ignores is that a large employer of people on vastly inferior "hiseiki" contracts is local authorities. Yep, another level of the government itself. Most of these people will be employed directly by the authority, so there is no temp agency involved.

While it may not be the intention, I feel that workers on temporary contracts with low wages end up subsidizing the shrinking group of full employees. The system preys on the weak.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

What's not mentioned are the spouse benefits that many wives here enjoy. Many married women here are more than happy to work under the 1.3 million limit to ensure they get a pension, health care, tax breaks and discounted things like kindergarten and daycare for their kids. When you factor in that the majority of temp workers are women, (and I'd be willing to bet married women) the idea of paying equally is Abe's way of forcing this benefit to be done away with without actually dealing with it directly - as he knows that would be the end of him.

This benefit hurts women in a huge way but the majority here don't care because they benefit from it. Over 50% of single mothers live in poverty, 1/6 kids. And in the men who can't find a decent paying jobs and you have a huge issue that is only going to get worse in the future. Actually paying women what they are worth would help this issue but I won't hold my breath. No way are companies going to start paying benefits to housewives and no way do these women want to pay their way. None of the women I have spoken to who work PT are interested in working FT nor are they interested in paying pension and health care.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

"equal pay for temp workers"

Damn, that's gonna push up prices...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Yubaru, you're right, but it should be added that in the countryside housing is more affordable and more spacious.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

tmarie, this has to be the hundredth time I've seen you post something negative about working mothers. You do realize that if these women you love to disparage don't work their husbands are still paying both their pensions and healthcare, right? It's not like that's free money coming from the government. It's still a drain on households whether they work or not.

The biggest problem I see with the current system is that when you factor in childcare costs the household income only raises by a few 10,000¥s or so. It's a huge stress for very little reward. If these temp workers were paid an equal amount for the equal jobs they do we'd be talking about increases of 100,000¥s which might actually be worth the stress of trying to juggle families and jobs.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

It seems the Gov could save alot of money by turning all these politicians into part-timers.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

You do realize that if these women you love to disparage don't work their husbands are still paying both their pensions and healthcare, right?

Wrong. Not only does the husband of a non-working (or earning under the limit) wife not pay anything towards his wife's pension and health insurance, he pays less tax because of the spouse deduction he can claim on account of her being a dependant. Meanwhile my husband is taxed as a single man on account of me earning and paying my way.

It's not like that's free money coming from the government.

It's free money coming from all those, male, female, married, single, who earn above the 1.3million limit. My husband is paying towards other men's wives' pensions. I not only pay my own pension premiums, I pay towards the pension of the generic housewife next door who has never worked a day in her married life.

I don't think either I or tmarie would have any gripe with husbands paying in full the pension and health insurance premiums of their non-working/under-earning wives. It would bring our own premiums down, or lift pensions up.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Ok... why over the last 10 or so years have companies elected to hire more people in temporary positions rather than putting them on as full time. Because of basic Japanese labor laws. If you hire a "full time" employee, you are now handcuffed to that person. Firing and laying that person becomes very expensive. Why not revise labor laws? You don't have to make it as brutal as the USA but make it reasonable. After the bubble collapsed way back in 1990, so many companies were sitting on full time employees that the could not afford to layoff due to the steep separation pay cost. That is what this is about.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Ironic. The low wages are a direct result of the "market reforms" that everyone (but not me) on JT have been demanding.

The 2-tier workforce became a lot more pronounced after 2 fairly recent "reforms" to the labor standards law. So you do you people actually want "reform" or not?

The problem is that employers aren't holding up their part of the deal, because the "reforms" encourage them to keep more of their profits for themselves and their shareholders. Welcome to supply-side economics, folks. It ain't pretty.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Bububu, you might want to go back and check my posts. I have zero issues with working mothers. None at all. What I have issue with are those who play the system and don't want to pay their taxes, pension and health care due to the spouse benefits. HUGE difference. Go and read Cleo's post because you clearly don't get how the system works here and hurts those who are not married, widowed, divorced single moms.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Yubaru. The problem when comparing salaries is you also have to compare costs of living. Housing is a major cost, so that has to be a significant consideration. When I lived in Kumamoto, I was paying less than half the rent as in the Kansai area (and that is not even in the big cities). And Tokyo is also a lot more expensive, so higher salaries do not necessarily mean a higher standard of living.

Rather than pushing salaries, one of the things that has to happen is to get rid of these permanent temp roles. I understand the role of temps, but if a position goes on beyond two years, that is beyond temporary. At the same salary a person in a more permanent role is more likely to invest in the future as they can start planning ahead. You can afford to take on some debt if you have a reasonable prospect of having incoming in 6 months or a year down the road. If you are not sure about your job prospects in 3 months or 6 months, the propensity is, reasonably, to save.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Not only does the husband of a non-working (or earning under the limit) wife not pay anything towards his wife's pension and health insurance, he pays less tax because of the spouse deduction he can claim on account of her being a dependant.

I pay both my wife's pension and health insurance since she is no longer working after getting pregnant and being made redundant.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Bu, you aren't paying 100%. You'll also now be getting dependent spouse benefits and tax breaks at your city level. If you decide to enroll your future child into kindy, you'll pay a cheaper rate than a family where both parents work. The info is out there if you'd like to educate yourself on the matter. The way the system is set up hurts women who don't tow the housewife line. Why would you want to punish the working poor any more? Women get paid peanuts in this country and it needs to change. Only way to change that is to get PT working married women to realize they'd be better off earning a living wage and paying taxes rather than support a crappy system that keeps them in unstable, low paying positions. If anything I'm trying to life better for working PT moms. A shame you don't see that. If the system changed and your wife wanted to go back to work, she'd be paid what she's worth. Now? She'll make far less than what she deserves. Thing is though, many are okay with that due to the benefits they get.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I think Abe's solution is to lower regular wages until they are the same as those of temporary workers. Hey presto: no more pay gap. His rich mates will help themselves to the savings and make large donations to the LDP.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Yes, I am paying 100%. Her contribution is the exact same as what I pay for myself. We also had to pay a year of taxes and healthcare premiums for her without her earning a wage. The amount of tax benefit I get comes nowhere near the reduction in household income we suffered with her unable to get maternity leave and her old job back. As far as getting reduced childcare, we can't even put my daughter into the local daycare unless my wife is back at work so this reduced rate is pure fantasy on your part.

The thing is, you think woman who don't go back to work are selfish and lazy and a drain on you and society in general. This position is laughable. Many mothers (including my wife) want to go back to work. But as this article points out the chances of her finding a full time job with a decent salary are slim to none. If she were to go back to work now we'd have almost no additional household income but the added stress of having to juggle work and childcare. Who in their right mind would want to earn a couple of man to go to work full time? Seriously, we did the calculation and after all the extra expenses of having to accommodate having our child in daycare we'd get something like 35,000-40,000Y extra each month.

I totally agree that women get paid peanuts in this country and it has to change. There is a wage gap of around 28% and it is totally unfair. But how does forcing more women back to work increase wages? If anything the exact opposite would happen since there would be an increased number of people competing for the same number of jobs.

You're worried that your taxes are paying someone else's benefits? Well, I pay taxes too (and probably a lot more than you do) but I see the current system as a way to support families who need it.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The thing is, you think woman who don't go back to work are selfish and lazy and a drain on you and society in general. This position is laughable. Many mothers (including my wife) want to go back to work. But as this article points out the chances of her finding a full time job with a decent salary are slim to none. If she were to go back to work now we'd have almost no additional household income but the added stress of having to juggle work and childcare. Who in their right mind would want to earn a couple of man to go to work full time? Seriously, we did the calculation and after all the extra expenses of having to accommodate having our child in daycare we'd get something like 35,000-40,000Y extra each month.

We did the same calculations - there is absolutely not financial benefit in my wife returning to work. The added hassles just aren't worth the additional money we would have. I make as much in a couple of hours as we would gain from her working all month.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

tmarie and cleo are right about the working women issue. I also think the benefits for p/t-at-most dependent women stop a large section of the female population from caring very much about sexual discrimination in the workplace. They are not particularly concerned about barriers to advancement for women in career jobs because they have no intention of ever doing one. Likewise with the male politicians who get away with calling women baby machines. They get away with it because women to not unite to stop them. Being viewed as a baby machine is not a problem if you only work a few hours a week when it's convenient for you.

That all said, that's not necessarily the issue here. The issue here is people being divided into first and second class employees in spite of doing the same work for the same hours. My suspicion is that some of the benefits of seishain, such as the typical 20 million yen plus taishokukin payoff retirees get at 60, are only sustainable if the companies fill other positions with low paid, no benefits workers, who unlike seishain will be fired if they are not productive. Traditionally Japan's top companies would screw all their suppliers, like mom and pop nagaya factories that have largely been replaced with manufacturers in China, to pay their staff well, but they have moved onto exploiting an increasingly large proportion of their own workforce. As things stand, the system benefits poorly skilled and poorly motivated seishain. Seishain who are capable would not lose from any loosening of the rules about employment because capable employees will always be in demand. Easier hiring and firing would also increase the competitiveness of Japanese companies.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I am paying 100%. Her contribution is the exact same as what I pay for myself. We also had to pay a year of taxes and healthcare premiums for her without her earning a wage

I find that very hard to believe. People who earn nothing pay nothing in taxes. Unless she was self-employed and sent in her tax returns at the end of the fiscal year, in which case she would be paying taxes on what she earned the previous year, not 'without her earning a wage'. But in that case she couldn't be made redundant...maybe she was a contract worker?

If she's unemployed and not registered as the dependent spouse of a sarariman, she pays the kokumin nenkin; if you are employed and earning enough to be paying 'probably a lot more' tax than other folk, you are in a company scheme with premiums a lot higher than kokumin nenkin, and half your premiums are paid by the company that employs you. I have never heard of any company pension scheme that covers spouses at the same level of premium as the main worker.

If your wife is not eligible to register as the dependent spouse of a sarariman on account of you being self-employed, you're both paying kokumin nenkin and hopefully have some private pension scheme going as well. In that case her premiums in the private scheme could be as high as yours, but that has nothing to do with the official national/corporate pension and whether or not she is employed is irrelevant. Same goes for health insurance. The national finances have nothing to do with any private schemes you might be paying into.

you think woman who don't go back to work are selfish and lazy and a drain on you and society in general.

I realise you addressed that remark to tmarie, but I would just like to clarify that I do not think mothers who don't do back to work are selfish. Far from it; dumping a baby in childcare as soon as possible in order to get back to work is selfish, in my opinion. Kids should be able to count on the undivided attention of one full-time carer at least until the age of three, and I would have no problems at all in seeing families with infants and one parent at home full-time credited with free pensions and health insurance to cover that period. My gripe is with the women with no kids, or with grown-up kids, who can afford to stay at home and expect the rest of us to attend to their needs when they're old and/or sick.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Far from it; dumping a baby in childcare as soon as possible in order to get back to work is selfish, in my opinion. Kids should be able to count on the undivided attention of one full-time carer at least until the age of three, and I would have no problems at all in seeing families with infants and one parent at home full-time credited with free pensions and health insurance to cover that period

I totally agree with you here. I wish we could get a free pension and health care for her during that period.

I'm self-employeed and part of the kokumin nenkin system. We pay into the national pension scheme and we also have a private pension scheme. Our contributions for both are the same. As far as health care, well, with universal health care you're always paying for somebody else. It's what makes the whole system work. Maybe you don't want to contribute towards someone else's dependant, maybe someone without kids doesn't want to pay for other people's kids, maybe someone without elderly parents doesn't want to pay for someone else's elderly parents, maybe someone without disabilities doesn't want to pay for someone with disabilities, and the list goes on. I grew up with universal healthcare and see it's value.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The low wages are a direct result of the "market reforms" that everyone (but not me) on JT have been demanding.

No, low wages are a result of an illiquid and non-competitive labour market.

The 2-tier workforce became a lot more pronounced after 2 fairly recent "reforms" to the labor standards law. So you do you people actually want "reform" or not?

There shouldn't be a 2-tier workforce, reforms to realize that aim should be implemented.

The problem is that employers aren't holding up their part of the deal, because the "reforms" encourage them to keep more of their profits for themselves and their shareholders.

They will only be encouraged to raise wages when the labour market is more liquid and competitive. If you labour supplier's primary aim is to be employed forever and accepts low wages as a trade-off, why would employers pay more? Employers need to be able to fire more readily if they are to take on the extra risk of paying higher wages, but such reforms won't be coming because of all the vested interests and anti-risk taking culture in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm self-employed

There you have it, then; it's the dependent wives of sararimen who get all the freebies.

with universal health care you're always paying for somebody else. It's what makes the whole system work

I grew up with the NHS so I'm fully aware of how that works. At least the NHS is reasonably fair, though; in Japan everyone gets the same out of the system, but what you pay in depends not only (or even mainly) on how much you earn, but on how you earn it (self-employed or company-employed) and where you earn it (premiums are calculated differently by each local government).

Maybe you don't want to contribute towards someone else's dependant

What I don't want to contribute to is the (generic) lady next door who can afford to stay at home; there is no good reason for her to get a free pension while I and others who cannot afford to be ladies of leisure have to pay to get the same. That has nothing to do with universal health care.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

fxgaiJUN. 08, 2016 - 01:24PM JSTThey will only be encouraged to raise wages when the labour market is more liquid and competitive. If you labour supplier's primary aim is to be employed forever and accepts low wages as a trade-off, why would employers pay more? Employers need to be able to fire more readily if they are to take on the extra risk of paying higher wages, but such reforms won't be coming because of all the vested interests and anti-risk taking culture in Japan.

In Japan, approximately 40 percent work part-time. Japan can be a very stressful society to live in as the employment system is very rigid and it is not easy for those who have been laid off to find another job. They work in poorly paid jobs for hourly rates and many do not pay taxes or pay into pension system. Benefits are all but non-existent. Moreover, people working part-time are less likely to marry and have children. If Japan is to solve its demographic problem, it will have to tackle the labour issue. Japan needs to narrow the gap between over-protected permanent workers and under-protected non-permanent ones. That coddling one section of the workforce does not serve Japan’s interests well. Simply making life less cushy for permanent workers is not likely to do any good on its own. The big push should be on improving the wages and conditions of temporary workers. It should be made far easier for them to migrate to permanent jobs and for workers of all descriptions to move more freely between companies.

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0 ( +0 / -0 )

Supey11: totally correct. The middle men ( Temp Agencies ) were not mention. I think your % are out. If you are getting pay Y1500 per hour. The company you are hire too is paying Y3000 per hour to the Temp Agencies. If not more. Abe knows this. So the only thing Abe can do is to allow Temp Agencies to field only for major shutdowns and Short term projects ( no longer then 3 months ). This will force Company to start hiring full time staff after 3 months. But that will not Happen because the Companies will pull all funding from the LDP. So Abe is trying to like like he doing something positive knowing that the Companies book show they are paying more for part time workers compare to full time workers. More smoke and mirrors coming from Abe and the LDP

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Cleo

It's free money coming from all those, male, female, married, single, who earn above the 1.3million limit. My husband is paying towards other men's wives' pensions. I not only pay my own pension premiums, I pay towards the pension of the generic housewife next door who has never worked a day in her married life.

Thanks for posting this...one of the most informative and important posts I have read on Japan Today recently.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Abe should push this hard and make the move unstoppable, so that it will go on to Equal Pay for Men and Women in Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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