Legal change will make temp purgatory permanent for many Japanese workers

Eight years ago, a TV drama about temporary workers generated a great deal of excitement around Japan. In “Haken no Hinkaku” (“Dignity of a Temp”), model-actress-singer Ryoko Shinohara played Haruko Omae, a “super-temp” who masterfully tackled the myriad troubles that arose in her ¥3,000-an-hour job. Unshakable, aloof and playing by her own rules, she performed better than any of the regular employees, refused all overtime and off-the-clock socialization, and shunned flattery and fake smiles to boot.

Unfortunately, the drama did not reflect reality. In real life, critics said, such a temp worker (haken shain) would have been fired on the spot, and regardless of skill level, temp workers tend to be seen as outsiders and are treated worse than regular workers.

On Wednesday, recent revisions to the Worker Dispatch Law go into effect. There was chaotic debate in the Diet over this bill, just as there was with the security bills, but in the end the ruling coalition dealt with it in the same way as it has other unpopular measures: by pushing it through with their majority in both chambers.

Let’s look at the details of the changes.

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Should SEALDs student activists worry about not getting hired?

Summer 2015 — 70 years since Japan’s defeat in World War II. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling coalition have rammed two security bills through the Lower House that overturn decades of interpretation of the Constitution by enabling Japan to engage in collective self-defense. Now he hopes to do the same in the Upper House.

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本日、9月3日は「くみあい」(=組合)の日Today is Labor Union Day!

みなさん、知っていますか。今日9月3日は、「くみ(9・3)あい」の日です。Today is Labor Union Day! Did you know that?

労働組合は、団結がすべてです。そして、団結の根っこには「愛」がなければいけません。Solidarity is everything for a union. There must be love at the root of solidarity.

どんな職種でも、どんな立場でも、どんな人種や国籍でも、労働者は、手を携えて、仲間のために団結しなければいけません。Regardless of industry, job type, race or nationality, each worker must have solidarity with coworkers. 

「万国の労働者よ、団結しようぴょん!」と東ゼン労組の団結うさぎも言っています。Tozen Solidarity Bunny says, “Workers of the world, unite!”  


The 100 hour work week in Japan

At 3 a.m. on Monday morning, Eriko Fujita leaves the IBM offices in Tokyo. She rushes home to take a shower and get a few hours of sleep before she returns to her office at 7 a.m.

This is the hidden side of life at IBM Japan. For a period of eight months, Fujita, whose name has been changed to protect her anonymity, averages 18 to 20 hours of work per day. Her schedule, which includes Saturdays and Sundays, is particularly demanding since she interfaces with programmers in different time zones.

“We don’t have a 5 o’clock-and-get-out kind of culture,” she says with a shrug. While her schedule depends on the specific project, Fujita, in her late twenties, says her typical workday lasts about 15 hours.

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Three amigos on a mission to protect your rights

The only people who tend to know what I’m talking about when I say the words “labor relations commission” are unionists, labor or corporate lawyers and labor-law scholars. These panels are government enforcement bodies that lack the glamour and fame of the courts, the cops and even the Labor Standards Office, and sound about as dull as dish water. This is a shame, because in actual fact, they do some amazing work. Let me explain.

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Has striking in Japan become extinct?


Dear reader, what do you think when you hear this word? What impression do you get? Do you see the blood, sweat and tears? Do you see an angry, vicious mob disturbing our civil society? I bet a majority of Japanese people under the age of 40 have neither a positive nor negative impression of strikes. They have no impression at all and no idea about what a strike is because strikes have become rarer in modern Japanese society. This, however, hasn’t always been the case.

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ABC NewsRadio Interview

ABC NewsRadio’s Eleni Psaltis presents Japan In Focus, a new program that takes a close look at significant political and cultural developments in Japan.

This week: Defining Joshi Kosei – high school girls hired for a range of controversial services for men, the US dollar hits its highest level against the yen since December 2002 and why people are consuming more meat than fish in Japan.

Eleni Psaltis speaks to Hifumi Okunuki and Louis Carlet from the Zenkoku Ippan Tokyo General Union, the Wall Street Journal’s Tokyo correspondent Eleanor Warnock and Masa Kagawa, an associate professor at the Kagawa Nutrition University.

Listen here:


‘Zero Overtime Bill’ is the thin end of the wedge for workers’ rights

Takuboku Ishikawa died in 1910 at the tender age of 26.  But before he left this world, he penned the following famous tanka:


waga kurashi
raku ni narazari
jitto te wo miru

Staring at my hands
I toil and toil
yet my life gets no easier

Bewildered by his predicament, Takuboku found himself staring at the hands that connected him both physically and spiritually to his work.

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