'Diversity' in employment will only increase 'disposable' workers -- Akahata editorial, May 13

Business circles and the government are calling for "diversity in employment" as one of their major employment policy targets. If carried out, this will increase workers in unstable jobs, such as part-timers and temporary workers. This is a serious problem for the future of Japan's society.

26% of all workforce are under unstable employment

The number of workers in unstable jobs has increased by about 3.8 million in the last six years to 13.77 million or 26% of all wage workers.

The reason for such a rapid increase in the number of workers in unstable employment is that major companies have replaced regular employees with contingent workers as part of corporate restructuring programs.

Business circles and the government say, "Workers can choose their working style." How deceptive it is!

Business circles consider contingent workers to be cheaper and easy to "throw away."

Part-time and temporary workers are only paid half the wages of regular workers, and the gap is widening. Bonuses, transportation, and retirement allowances for the former are also considerably lower and the number of paid holidays they can use are smaller than for the latter.

The business circles' strategy for the 21st century calls for a low cost employment system under which long-term employment contracts are limited to key sections of a company and all other jobs are carried out by unstable workers so that companies get larger profits.

The government, in support of this strategy, is stepping up deregulation in the labor market to make it easier for companies to use temporary workers and workers on limited term contracts.

What will the "diversity in employment" bring to society? Workers won't be able to live a decent life even though they work hard. Young workers and students cannot have hopes for their future.

As long as companies do nothing but reduce personnel expenses, people's income and consumption, as well as production will continue falling, a vicious circle.

Discriminating against part-time workers and other contingent workers on the grounds that they are inferior to regular employees conflicts with the Constitutional principle that all people are equal.

This is clear from the Maruko Keihoki (Horn) lawsuit in which the court ruled that blatant wage discrimination against temporary workers violates the principle of equal wages for equal labor.

Harsh conditions and discrimination against part-timers and temps in Japan are anachronistic and contrary to the world trend.

The EU (European Union) prohibits discrimination against part-timers, sets the principle of equal wages for equal labor, and urges employers to promote their part-timers to full-timers.

For temps as well, EU countries regard them as exceptional and apply the equal treatment as fundamental principles to both regulars and temps.

The principles of equal treatment for part-time and full-time workers accord with international standards which are stipulated in Convention 175 of the ILO (International Labour Organization).

Ignoring the international principles, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor, in a February "interim report" of its study group on part time labor, seeks to close the gaps between part-time workers and those on other types of job in terms of wages by only keeping managerial workers as full-time workers. This will only help maintain the low-wage and discriminatory employment systems.

The need now is to drastically improve wages and working conditions in line with international standards, not to increase unstable low-wage jobs.