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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 March 29 - April 4  > Abe’s panel adopts pro-business action plan for ‘work-style reform’
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2017 March 29 - April 4 [LABOR]

Abe’s panel adopts pro-business action plan for ‘work-style reform’

March 29, 2017
Prime Minister Abe’s advisory panel discussing “work-style reform” on March 28 adopted an action plan for reform which will impose on workers excessively long overtime hours equivalent to the amount of hours designated as the danger line for death from overwork.

The core of Abe’s “work-style reform” policy sets a ceiling on overtime and introduces so-called “equal job, equal pay” rules. Prime Minister Abe is proudly proclaiming that his call for “work-style reform” will bring about a drastic change in post-war Japan’s labor law history. However, what the panel’s action plan seeks to accomplish is to boost labor productivity and utilization under the pretext of achieving economic recovery in response to business circles’ demand for increased profits.

In the plan, Abe’s panel proposed limiting overtime to 720 hours a year. The panel, however, allowed for an exception that during the busy season, employers can force workers to work less than 100 hours of overtime a month or an average of 80 hours of monthly overtime over a period of two to six months. The 80-hour monthly overtime limit is currently used as the yardstick for the official recognition of overwork-induced deaths.

Regarding the implementation of the equal pay for equal work principle, the plan permitted maintaining wage gaps between regular and non-regular workers by stating that basic wages and seasonal allowances are paid based on employers’ evaluations of workers’ competence for jobs and contribution to companies.

The plan left the introduction of a sufficient interval between the end of a day’s work and the beginning of the next day’s work to employers and took a negative stance to immediately raising the minimum hourly wage to 1,000 yen. Meanwhile, it proposed the expansion of non-regular, low-paid employment and further relaxation of labor regulations under the name of providing diverse and flexible work style options to workers.

The panel’s proposal will be discussed in the Labor Ministry’s labor policy council and put on the table in an extraordinary Diet session slated for autumn.

Past related articles:
> Abe’s work-style reform will increase risk of ‘karoshi’: bereaved families [March 9, 2017]
> Gov’t seeks to set overtime at 720 hours a year, two times longer than current limit [February 16, 2017]
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