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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 March 18 - 24  > Abe gov’t seeks to promote use of elderly workers without legal protection
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2020 March 18 - 24 [LABOR]

Abe gov’t seeks to promote use of elderly workers without legal protection

March 18, 2020

The House of Representatives Labor and Welfare Committee on March 12 began discussing a bill to revise the Act for Stabilization of Employment of Elderly Persons. The bill, however, is criticized for excluding elderly workers from legal protection in exchange for providing them with an opportunity to be employed.

The measure is one of the pillars of the Abe government’s social security reform supposedly “benefiting” all generations. If implemented, it will require employers to make efforts to employ workers aged between 65 and 70. In this regard, the bill allows them to revise these workers’ employment status to “independent contractor” or “freelance worker” not entitled to labor protection. The government intends to enact the bill by the end of March.

On the same day, the Lower House Committee held a public hearing during discussions on the bill. In the public hearing session, National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) labor legislation bureau chief Ito Keiichi opposed the government proposed-measure.

Ito cited a provision in the bill that enables corporations to hire workers aged 65-70 as independent contractors or paid volunteers. He pointed out that this provision will give employers a tool to use elderly workers as “disguised freelance workers” for the purpose of evading labor regulations and cutting labor costs. The Zenroren officer demanded the removal of this provision from the bill.

Ito also noted that senior workers are likely to suffer workplace injuries and illnesses which can be fatal. He pointed out that compared with workers in their late 20s, the risk of becoming victims of work-related accidents is two times greater in male workers aged 65 and older and 4.9-fold greater in female workers in the same age range. In addition, he said that it is normal for elderly workers to have at least one chronic health problem and thus these workers should be protected by law.

After the public hearing at a rally held in the Diet building, Ito pointed out that under a situation where elderly workers have to continue to work because of insufficient pension benefits, if the bill is enacted, they will be forced to choose to work even as independent contractors. Stating that with the ongoing health crisis, legal protection for workers, such as compensation for absence of work, becomes more important, he said that the government should withdraw the bill that will force elderly workers to work without legal protection.

Past related article:
> Abe intends to force people to keep working as long as possible with insufficient pension benefits: Koike [February 2, 2019]
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