June 6, 1980, was a Friday. The Social Insurance Agency quietly issued an untitled internal memo called a naikan regarding the eligibility of part-timers in Japan’s shakai hoken health and pension program. Who could have known what chaos, confusion and frustration that single-page document would cause in the coming decades? Let’s get our hands dirty and dig through the details.
The major economic engines of Japan Inc. — car manufacturers, appliance giants and the like — have often been caught price-fixing: colluding to keep an even market share, squeeze competitors out and maintain “harmony.” Similarly, the commercial English-teaching business could be accused of wage-fixing: Rather than competing for talent, they have followed one another’s lead, driving down salaries to hamper career development, limit job mobility and keep foreign teachers firmly in their place.
We’ve all heard the tale of the scorpion and the frog. In a rising flood, the scorpion asks the frog for a piggy-back ride across the river. The frog refuses, complaining that the scorpion will sting it to death midway. The scorpion assures the frog it would do no such thing because they would both drown. The frog accepts the logic, lets the scorpion on its back and begins to swim.
GU court victory against gov’t over insurance to have major impact
On 20 March at 13:25, the Tokyo District Court ruled on the case of a General Union member who sued the Japanese government in an important test case regarding eligibility for enrollment in the Employees Health and Pension Insurance (shakai hoken).
Read more at the GU website here.
The Yomiuri Shimbun
About 800,000 small and midsize companies are strongly suspected of evading their legal obligation to join the public pension scheme for company employees, according to the results of a joint investigation by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the National Tax Agency.
The ministry identified the companies that have likely not joined the pension scheme by examining data provided by the tax agency.
Last Thursday’s Supreme Court verdict in the “maternity harassment” case brought by a physical therapist in Hiroshima was the first of its kind, overturning decades of business-friendly jurisprudence along with rulings from the district and high courts.
As I mentioned in last year’s September Labor Pains (“Mata-hara: turning the clock back on women’s rights”), the word mata-hara is short for maternity harassment, just as seku-hara and pawa-hara refer to sexual harassment and power harassment, respectively. Maternity harassment means workplace discrimination against pregnant or childbearing women, including dismissal, contract nonrenewal and wage cuts.
Today we held a silent protest against icc language school for violating Japanese labor by firing Tozen member Sulejman Brkic who worked there for 22 years. He was illegally fired after he requested paid holidays and social insurance and pension. Thank you very much everyone for coming in solidarity!
“A Pension Agency enforcement directive continues to make it explicitly easier for employers to avoid paying pension and insurance contributions on behalf of their foreign employees who teach languages as compared with Japanese employees in similar positions. It also does not establish penalties for employers who illegally fail to enroll foreign teachers in the system. Employers may use different contracts for foreigners than for nationals, and courts have generally upheld this distinction as nondiscriminatory.