Abe, business heads, labor unions agree on efforts for wage growth

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration crafted a joint statement Tuesday with leaders of business organizations and labor unions, aiming to bolster the economy through wage growth.

At a trilateral meeting, Abe also urged large manufacturers, which have benefited from the yen’s slide, to trade with their subcontracting companies at higher prices to allow the effects of his “Abenomics” policy mix to trickle down to smaller firms and local economies.

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Toyota labor unions to demand minimum ¥6,000 pay hike

NAGOYA – The federation of labor unions at Toyota Motor Corp. said Friday it plans to make a unified demand for a pay-scale hike of at least ¥6,000 per month during the spring wage talks this year.It will be the Federation of All Toyota Workers’ Union’s biggest request since 2002, when comparable figures were first kept.

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Tozen Vlog for May 18, 2014

Wages rebound in January for 1st time in 13 months

The regular monthly wage for workers in Japan eked out a 0.3 percent gain in January from a year earlier to an average 261,074 yen, bouncing back for the first time in 13 months amid pay raises in the welfare, medical and manufacturing sectors, which have relatively large workforces, the government said Tuesday.

The base wage inched up 0.3 percent to 242,642 yen, while overtime pay rose 1.2 percent to 18,432 yen, according to the monthly survey by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The overall monthly wage, including bonuses and other irregular pay, stayed the same at 273,318 yen, with irregular pay shrinking an average 5.3 percent, it said.

By industry, regular wages at manufacturers grew 1.1 percent to 294,428 yen, while those in the medical and welfare industries gained 1.7 percent to 251,367 yen.

Overtime working hours in the manufacturing sector, seen as a key indicator of overall economic conditions, increased 1.5 percent to 13.3 hours for the fifth straight monthly rise.


Nonregulars at record 35.2% of workforce

The ratio of nonregular workers in the labor force in 2011 hit a record average high of 35.2 percent, excluding [Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima] the three prefectures severely affected by the March quake and tsunami, up 0.8 point from 2010, according to data compiled by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.

The average for the year hit a record for the second straight year, the ministry said Monday.

The rise appears to have stemmed from the growing tendency of firms to hire fewer young people as regular workers and rehire veteran workers on a contract basis after their retirement.

By age bracket, the ratio of nonregular workers came to a record 32.6 percent among people aged between 15 and 34, while that among workers aged 55 and over was 51.5 percent, also an all-time high, the ministry said.

Nonregular workers aged between 15 and 34 numbered 1.7 million, up 20,000, it said.


Average winter bonus for gov’t employees goes up 4.1%

The government’s rank-and-file employees received on average of about 617,100 yen in winter bonuses, up 4.1 percent from a year earlier, as the Democratic Party of Japan-led government failed to make deep cuts in wages.

The average bonus for a government employee is equivalent to 2.02 months pay, which is some 1,900 yen higher than if a 0.23 percent pay cut had been implemented. The authority’s proposal is designed to make up for the gap with pay from the private sector.


Occupy Wall Street resonates within Japan

Author Karin Amamiya gives her views on the OWS movement in the monthly media magazine Tsukuru (December) and finds many similarities between Japan and the U.S. As opposed to a U.S. poverty rate of 15.1 percent, Japan’s is over 16 percent. The number of welfare recipients in Japan has shot past 2 million, and percentage of those in the work force holding nonregular jobs is at its highest level ever — 38.7 percent.

Last Thursday, a five-page article in Shukan Bunshun (Dec. 8) gave one of the gloomiest indications yet that the prolonged recession has had a pronounced effect on the incomes of Japan’s wage earners.

According to business consultant Masao Kitami, during 1997-2007, total wages declined by ¥20 trillion. “When people say Japan is becoming a society with a widening income gap,” he writes, “I tell them, we’ve descended into a ‘low-wage society.'”

Based on surveys of major corporations belonging to Keidanren (the Japan Business Federation), Kitami provides the latest data showing significant drops in wages between 2007-2010. The declines in the greater Tokyo region — where workers typically receive the highest remuneration in Japan — have been particularly steep. For males in their 50s, for example, the mean annual compensation dropped from ¥5.58 million in 2007 to ¥4.81 million in 2010. After withholdings, monthly take-home pay by younger salaried workers may be less than ¥200,000.

Kitami warns that once the annual incomes of males in their 50s living in Japan’s three main urban areas plummets below ¥5 million, the current social welfare model, based on a nuclear family composed of husband, wife and two children, is in danger of collapse.


74 percent of fixed contract workers earn below 2 million yen annually

Seventy-four percent of fixed-contract workers such as part-time and temporary employees earned less than 2 million yen a year, according to a recent survey, up 16.7 percentage points from the last survey in 2009, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Sept. 14.

Of those fixed contract workers who performed the same jobs as permanent employees, 60.3 percent made less than 2 million yen, up sharply from 40.7 percent, reflecting the aggravated labor market

While 60.3 percent of fixed contract workers doing the same jobs and shouldering the same responsibilities as permanent employees settle for an annual income of below 2 million yen, 43.5 percent of contract workers utilizing more advanced skills than permanent employees also earned less than 2 million yen annually, up from 32.1 percent.

The survey also found that 76.5 percent of contract workers engaged in the same type of jobs also made less than 2 million a year, up from 62.0 percent.

By type of employment, contract workers accounted for 47.2 percent, up from 38.6 percent in the previous survey, and temporary workers totaled 56.7 percent, up from 45.7 percent.

Asked to cite up to three reasons for becoming fixed-contract workers, 43.6 percent of contract employees and 43.1 percent of fixed-term workers said they could not find regular jobs.


Japan’s ratio of education spending to GDP lowest among OECD nations

Japan’s expenditure on education as a percentage of gross domestic product in 2008 remained the lowest among 31 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the organization said in a report released Tuesday.

Japan’s ratio of educational expenditure to GDP in 2008 stood at 3.3 percent, the lowest among the 31 of the OECD’s 34 members with comparable data. Japan’s ratio was also the lowest in 2005 and 2007, and the second lowest in 2004 and 2006 in the annual OECD studies.

Meanwhile, private spending on education as a proportion of total educational expenditure stood at 33.6 percent in Japan, the third highest among 28 countries with comparable data, following Chile at 41.4 percent and South Korea at 40.4 percent.

The average number of students per class at Japanese elementary schools in 2009 stood at 28.0, compared with the average of 21.4 for 25 countries with comparable data. The average class size at junior high schools was 33.0, the second largest class size among the 25 countries, following South Korea at 35.1, the OECD said.

Besides efforts by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to reduce class sizes, the OECD report pointed out that “other factors that influence the quality of education need to be taken into account,” such as improving teachers’ salaries and working conditions in Japan.


Scant legal justification for unpaid overtime

“I’ve been working in Japan for the past few years and lately, because of the slow pace of business, our company has let go of some of our staff. As a result, we have to split the workload of the recent layoffs. Our boss keeps telling us to punch in our timecards for regular hours and not to do any overtime, but I cannot do all of my work within a regular eight-hour day, and I find myself routinely doing overtime. I am not getting paid for any of my extra work, and I was wondering what sort of steps I could take to get compensation.”

From what you’ve told us it sounds like you may have a case against your employer. Forcing employees to work overtime without compensation is illegal and can carry serious penalties for your employer.

In principle, a work week is supposed to total 40 hours, divided into eight hours per day. Any work beyond this limit is only possible with prior agreement between the employer and employees, and is subject to overtime payment.

Certain contracts include a clause stating that the salary includes any possible overtime hours or a specified “overtime allowance.” While the former is illegal, the latter is not illegal per se. However, employees are entitled to claim any difference between the overtime allowance and what the overtime wage for the actual hours would have been using the premiums mentioned above. Essentially, with or without an “overtime allowance clause,” the employee is entitled to the same overtime wages.

If overtime work is done with the understanding of the employer but without an explicit request, the employee can still file a request for unpaid overtime wages.

When there is unpaid overtime, an employee can report it to the relevant labor standards bureau, which will [may] conduct an investigation and [may] either suggest or request payment if a violation is found.