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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 November 4 - 10  > Opposition parties submit bill to improve gov’t subsidy program for SME workers
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2020 November 4 - 10 [POLITICS]

Opposition parties submit bill to improve gov’t subsidy program for SME workers

November 7, 2020

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

As part of measures to support workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government introduced a subsidy program for workers at small- and medium-sized enterprises who were ordered to take leaves without pay. Under the program, these workers can receive cash benefits equivalent to 80% of their monthly wages. However, it is becoming clear that the scheme’s progress fell short of expectations. The government has so far used only 6% of the allocated funds even four months after it started to accept applications in July. Unless the program is improved to cover all struggling workers as soon as possible, it will lose meaning. In order to address the situation, the Labor Ministry recently took some steps, but more drastic measures are needed.

The biggest problem in this subsidy program is that many employers refuse to cooperate in the submission of workers’ applications because they fear that their non-payment of leave allowances could be regarded as a violation of the Labor Standards Law.

In addition, the subsidy program covers only SME workers and not non-regular workers in large corporations. This is another problem. Under the government’s definition, businesses with more than 49 employees in the food service industry and those with more than 99 employees in the hotel industry are all categorized as “large businesses”. These “large companies” in the two industries alone hire over 600,000 non-regular workers and they cannot even apply for the subsidy program.

This cash benefit program is especially important for non-regular workers because they are normally not eligible to receive leave allowances. According to the Labor Ministry’s labor force survey, in April and May when the number of workers on temporary leave peaked, the two-month total was 5.09 million for non-regular workers, 1.6 times larger than 3.19 million for regular workers,

In order to make the subsidy program effective, it is essential to revise its operations as well as the program’s structure. The Japanese Communist Party and three other opposition parties at the end of October jointly submitted to the House of Representatives a bill to improve the program.

The main focus points in the bill are: stop excluding workers in large corporations; cover all workers including day laborers whose working hours decreased from the pre-pandemic level; and ensure cooperation from employers by indicating that their order for their employees to take leaves without pay during the pandemic is not the employers’ responsibility.

The government and ruling parties should discuss the bill in the Diet in order to support all workers facing financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Past related articles:
> Support program for coronavirus-hit SME workers should be improved: JCP Miyamoto [October 23, 202]
> Only 4% of budget for support program paid to coronavirus-hit workers [October 15, 2020]

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