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HOME  > Past issues  > 2021 November 24 - 30  > Gov’t should introduce legislation to protect freelancers’ labor rights
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2021 November 24 - 30 [LABOR]

Gov’t should introduce legislation to protect freelancers’ labor rights

November 24, 2021

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The number of workers doing freelance jobs, such as delivery, programming, and coaching, is estimated at 4.62 million, according to a government survey. Under the coronavirus pandemic, many of these workers are experiencing unilateral cuts in payment for their work and termination of contracts. It is unacceptable for the government to tolerate the exploitative use of freelance workers. The urgent need is for the government to create legislation that protects their livelihoods and labor rights.

The Japanese Communist Party in the Diet brought up the fact that delivery persons of a major food delivery service platform Uber Eats are excluded from the entitlement to workers’ compensation insurance, the application of minimum wages, the right to collective bargaining, and other labor protections. The party urged the government to take actions to eliminate the use of workers who have no labor rights.

In the world outside Japan, a legal framework and a court judgement aimed at protecting the labor rights of freelancers and gig-economy workers who take on one-off or short-term projects have been formed.

In Germany, the Federal Labor Court in December 2020 recognized some gig workers as employees. In South Korea, legislation that enables gig workers to apply for unemployment benefits has been adopted. In France, a law that makes gig-economy workers eligible for workers’ comp, job training, and the right to join a union was established in 2016. This indicates that the world trend recognizing freelancers and gig workers as “workers” and protecting their labor rights is gaining momentum.

The ILO in its recommendation concerning the employment relationship (No.198) which was issued in 2006 stated that national governments should protect workers affected by the uncertainty of the duration and terms of employment relationships. It is necessary for Japan to build a system in line with this recommendation.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Kishida Fumio included in its economic policy package, which was approved on November 19, a policy to build an environment under which freelance workers can work without undue anxiety by such means as introducing legislation that will prohibit contracts incorporating ambiguous terms.

However, the government guidelines for freelancers set strict standards for recognizing freelancers as “workers” to be protected in employment relationships, but freelance workers’ labor rights are insufficiently assured. The need is to establish a mechanism effective to ensure a decent work environment for freelance workers.

Past related articles:
> Coronavirus crisis raises risk of increasing labor exploitation in digital economy [September 8, 2020]
> JCP Kasai calls for labor protections for gig-economy workers [February 5, 2020]

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