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HOME  > Past issues  > 2021 November 10 - 16  > Labor Standards Act should be revised to eliminate excessively long working hours and workplace harassment
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2021 November 10 - 16 [LABOR]

Labor Standards Act should be revised to eliminate excessively long working hours and workplace harassment

November 14, 2021

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The latest data of the labor inspection authorities shows that in 2020, illegal overtime took place at 37.0% of the business entities inspected and 33.5% of the 37% forced workers to work more than 80 hours of overtime every month.

In 2018, the government ruled by the Liberal Democratic and Komei parties bulldozed through a package of “work style reform” laws which gave a legal blessing to long working hours. Under the adversely revised laws, the maximum allowable overtime hours became 100 hours a month, 80 hours on average for 2-6 months, and 720 hours a year (or 960 hours which include work on holidays), tantamount to the government-set guidelines for death from overwork (karoshi). In addition, the government in May 2021 revised the Medical Care Act, imposing on doctors a yearly overtime maximum of 1,860 hours.

Japanese full-time workers work 2,021 hours a year, 300-600 hours longer than workers in Germany (1,652 hours), France (1,425 hours), and Britain (1,697 hours). The WHO and the ILO in May 2021 released a report stating that workers who work more than 55 hours a week have a higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke. The Labor Standards Act should be revised to set a ceiling on overtime at 15 hours a week, 45 hours a month, and 360 hours a year without exception.

The elimination of unpaid overtime is long overdue. Regarding unpaid overtime among national government workers, when grilled by Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Tamura Tomoko at a House of Councilors meeting in March, then minister in charge of the national civil service system, Kono Taro, said that the hours government workers worked at their offices after scheduled working hours should be paid as overtime.

The recent increase in the number of power harassment cases which lead to karoshi and overwork-related suicides is also a matter of grave concern. In 2020, 1,906 workers won recognition of their mental disorders as work-related. Of them, 180 or approximately 10% experienced power harassment, including both physical and mental abuse, from their bosses.

A lack of a ban on workplace bullying and harassment in the current laws is a big problem. The need is for Japan to ratify the ILO anti-harassment treaty and establish necessary legal measures.

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