Abe walks a tightrope on Japan’s foreign worker policy

The number of foreign nationals working in Japan reached its highest-ever level in October 2017 at 1,278,670, according to a study by the labor ministry (bit.ly/mhlwhoudou). The foreign proportion of the population remains tiny compared to that in European countries or North America, yet the impact of the growing ranks of foreign workers is considerable in Japan, where the myth of ethnic homogeneity stubbornly persists (despite the existence of minorities, such as the Ainu and Okinawan people). What is this impact?

Well, that depends on the type of citizen being impacted upon. Let’s divide the citizenry into three broad categories based on their basic attitude toward foreign residents in general.

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Lessons on life, love and compassionate leave from a silly old bunny

This month I will explore compassionate leave — called kibiki kyūka in Japanese — the days you take off after losing a close family member. I chose this topic because I recently suffered a string of painful losses. Please bear with me as I relate to you what has happened to my loved ones over the past couple months.

Do you remember my granny bunny? I told you about her and the need for pet loss leave exactly a year ago in my February 2017 column, “Japanese need to take more leave, starting with when beloved pets pass.” Readers from around the world wrote to me in response to that article, empathizing, expressing warm wishes, like “I wish I could have taken off work after I lost my hamster” and “I feel such sadness when I remember my cat’s death.”

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Court cases shine a light on Japan’s problem with paternity leave

BY 

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The Japanese government wants to raise the number of fathers taking paternity leave from 2016’s 3 percent to 13 percent by 2020, but two recent court cases show how hard it can be for some fathers to take their legally mandated paternity leave — especially if difficult pregnancies complicate the situation before the child is born.

On paper, mothers and fathers are entitled to take child care leave (ikuji kyūka) at the same time for up to a year and receive two-thirds salary for the first six months and half salary for the second six months. However, eligibility depends on having worked for your current employer at least a year and expecting to be employed a year later.

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外国人にも無期転換逃れ? 仏政府公式「日仏学院」やベネッセ子会社で労使紛争

今年4月から適用がスタートする「無期転換ルール」。契約が反復更新され、通算5年を超えた場合、労働者は希望すれば、有期雇用から期間の定めのない労働契約(無期雇用)に転換できるというものだ(労働契約法)。

人手不足を背景に、前倒しして実施する企業もある一方、無期転換逃れをはかる使用者もあり、労使の攻防が続いている。問題に直面しているのは、日本で働く外国人労働者も例外ではない。

●「サイマル国際」グループ会社に事業譲渡、教員100人超が解雇

通訳や語学研修などを行なう「サイマル・インターナショナル」の外国人講師100人超は2017年11月、突然、2018年3月末までの解雇や契約終了を通知されたという。勤続10年以上の人もおり、「無期転換権」を取得できたはずの人が多く含まれていた。

理由は、会社の事業譲渡。講師たちがいるサイマルの部署を閉鎖し、別の会社「ベルリッツ・ジャパン」に移すためだという。講師たちは、希望すれば選考はしてもらえるが、採用の保証はない。

サイマルの教員組合はこれを無期転換逃れだと考えている。というのも、サイマルとベルリッツは、ベネッセグループのグループ企業(子会社)だからだ。

ただし、法的に争うのは容易ではない。外国人の労働問題にくわしい指宿昭一弁護士は、「法廷に持ち込まないと決着が難しい。容易な裁判にはならない」と指摘する。

「ただし、同一グループ内での事業譲渡で、無期転換を免れることができるなら、やりたい放題になってしまう。撤回してほしい」(指宿弁護士)

一方のサイマル側は「無期転換逃れということは全く考えていない」と否定。「事業譲渡は以前から検討しており、たまたまこのタイミングになってしまった。全員は無理だとしても、雇用の機会には最大限配慮している」と回答している。

●フランス政府公式なのに…日仏学院は悪条件での無期転換か、契約終了を提示

フランス政府公式機関の語学学校「アンスティチュ・フランセ」(日仏学院)の講師たちも無期転換逃れを主張している。

学院側は講師に対し、給料約3割カットなどの条件悪化で無期転換するか、契約を更新しないかを選ばせているという。すでに条件を呑んでしまった講師もいるが、東京の講師たちが抵抗。東京都労働委員会に不当労働行為救済の申し立てをしている。

(弁護士ドットコムニュース)

Why Japanese people keep working themselves to death

TOKYO — Years after losing his son, Itsuo Sekigawa is still in shock, grief-stricken and angry.

Straight out of college in 2009, his son Satoshi proudly joined a prestigious manufacturer, but within a year he was dead. Investigators said working extreme hours drove him to take his own life.

The young engineer fell victim to the Japanese phenomenon of “karoshi,” or death from overwork.

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Are university teachers in Japan covered by the ‘five-year rule’?

By Louis Carlet (Hifumi Okunuki is off this month):

My colleague Gaetan and I recently presented a seminar on the “five-year rule” to a group of Francophones at an event hosted by the Francais du Monde — Association Democratique des Francais a l’Etranger (French of the World — Democratic Association of French Abroad).

Gaetan had prepared an organized lecture, with charts and translations projected onto the wall behind him. We worked to convince the attendees that next year they could use the so-called five-year rule to become permanent employees if they had served more than five years in fixed-term contracts. Many of them were university teachers.

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Japan is not an “at will” employment country.

Many of our members are not Japanese and work at small or very small companies. Working at small companies has many advantages: it’s often more human and you have a direct relationship with the boss. However, if there are problems, those good points often turn into bad ones, since you can be on the receiving end of arbitrary decisions that are difficult to remedy, especially if you do not know your rights. Let’s take an example of a common problem that we at Tozen have to deal with quite often: illegal dismissal.

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