Ways to break through job crisis -- Akahata editorial, October 2

The present job insecurity in Japan is so serious that everyone knows someone who is jobless or under a dismissal threat due to corporate restructuring, or who has difficulty finding jobs.

The monthly unemployment rate has been over 5 percent since July 2001, and since May 2002 the rate has remained at 5.4 percent, almost the worst ever.

Rid workplaces of illegal labor practices

The pressing task now is to find ways to solve public concerns about jobs and high unemployment rates. It is particularly important to control illegal corporate restructuring as a step to prevent further incease in the number of the umenployed.

As the Japanese Communist Party's four-point proposal to safeguard the people's living conditions against the economic crisis calls for, it is essential to rid workplaces of such illegal practices as demanding from workers early retirement and unpaid overtime work.

The planned restructuring of 110,000 employees by Nippon Telephone and Telegraph (NTT) is typical of such illegal practices. The company urges workers at age 50 and above to choose between retirement and being rehired at lower wages. Those who rejected the offer were transferred to distant areas for disciplinary purposes. These methods were characterized by illegalities in which labor laws, case laws, labor agreements, and the ILO Treaty are violated.

The government is responsible to keep control over these illegal actions.

The approach that "profit is final justice" actually undermines corporations as seen in the recent series of scandals in major corporations.

It is social common sense that corporations are responsible not only to stockholders but to their workers and to all parties concerned. They should fulfill their social responsibility to defend jobs.

A point to note is that long working hours and unpaid overtime work have become rampant as a post-restructuring effect.

In a survey by the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry, 29 percent of offices are found to be violating the laws requiring legal payment of overtime and other extra pay.

Today's circumstance in which 3.61 million people are out of jobs while those employed have to work long hours, with many cases of karoshi (death from overwork) or overwork-related suicides, can not be left as is. Regulating the extraordinary long working hours will help increase jobs.

To provide jobs and security for unemployed people is an urgent task. A governmental survey shows that only 20 percent out of all unemployed receive benefits from unemployment insurance, while 50 percent live without any income.

Compared to Europe where 70-80 percent of the unemployed receive unemployment benefits, Japan's unemployment insurance system is much more limited.

With the adverse revision of the unemployment insurance scheme, the term of unemployment benefits for workers who left their jobs voluntarily has been reduced, and unemployment insurance premiums (paid on a 50-50 basis between labor and management) have been raised by 0.2 percent to 1.4 percent of workers' monthly income on the grounds of the need to deal with stringent national budgets.

The JCP "4-point proposal" calls for emergency measures to be maintained at least until the jobless rate goes back to 3 percent.

The proposal puts emphasis on extending the period during which workers can receive unemployment benefits to one year, and securing financial resources by collecting special premiums from large corporations who are responsible for large-scale unemployment.

Large corporations should bear such premiums because they keep cutting their workforce while small- and medium-sized businesses eagerly make efforts to bolster the nation's employment.

The JCP "4-point proposal" also calls for a life security system for out-of-work people who are facing difficulties in their life without unemployment benefits: subsidies to their children's school expenses, stopgap loans for their housing loans, and temporary jobs.

Politics should support people's livelihoods

It is important to note that such measures are now indispensable to recover the Japanese economy.

Reckless corporate restructuring only helps increase the number of unemployed workers, lower consumers' income and spending, and worsen Japan's economic crisis. Prime Minister Koizumi's "reform," promoting a quick write-off of bad loans, is accelerating further bankruptcies and increasing unemployment.

If the government supports people's living conditions, it can find a way-out from the present recession. It's high time to strengthen cooperation among people to protect jobs and livelihoods. (end)