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News related work in Japan: What’s work-style reform in Japan?

About Japan work-style reform. Why is it important for the Japanese government to introduce work-style reform?

Reference: https://www5.cao.go.jp/keizai-shimon/kaigi/special/future/sentaku/s2_1.html
If you have been working in Japan for a while, you may have heard lots of times about the word called “働き方改革(work-style reform)”. This project was started in 2016 when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched “Work Style Reform Promotion and Assistance Center”. What will be changed under this reform? Does it has any effect on foreigners finding jobs in Japan? In this article, we’re going to introduce the background, problems, strategies and affects under this reform.
Japan is now facing a big problem of labor force reduction and the population is expected to decrease more than anticipation. Based on the graph above, it showed the changes of anticipation of Japanese population, published by Japanese cabinet office. In 2060, the population is estimated to be around 88 million and in 2105, around 45 million. Come back to work-style reform, it can also be called as “building a society in which all 100 million people can play an active role”. As we can see from the graph above, this goal of 100 million people playing an active role can be very hard to achieve if the government doesn’t work on the reform.

How about the change anticipation of production age population in Japan?

Reference: http://www.ipss.go.jp/syoushika/tohkei/newest04/con2h.html
This is the research conducted by Japan National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. Based on the figure on the left, the top indicates “production age population (age between 15~64)”, the middle indicates “young population (age between 0~14)” and the last one indicates “the elders (age above 65)”. It is shown that the peak production age population was in 1995 of above 80 million people, which is the result of second baby boom in Japan. From then, the population keeps decreasing and is expected to reach around 44 million in 2060. Therefore, to avoid the decline in national productivity, the government has to promote the reform.

Strategies to solve Japan workforce declination.

There are 3 strategies in the big direction.
1.Increase workers (women or elders who haven’t been participating in the labor market)
2.Increase birth rate to increase future workers
3.Increase labor productivity
As for the last one, maybe it is unknown to some that Japan has a low labor productivity which is ranked as 22nd in all OECD member countries and the last in G7. For full time employees in Japan, each employee has an average of 2000 working hours per year for over 20 years ( Click here for more details:https://www.jpc-net.jp/intl_comparison/ ).

3 main problems in Japan labor market

・Long hours labor
・Disparity between non-regular and regular employee
・Labor population shortage (Promotion of elderly employment)

1.Long hours labor
For long hours labor, this was once successful strategy to recover Japanese economy. There is a word called “Moretsu employees(モーレツ社員)”, which describe employees in 1960s during high economy growth period who devoted fully into Japan economy and even had no time for their families. This is also a phenomenon accompanied with lifetime employment system in Japan. However, this thinking is now outdated. In 2013, the united nations reported of long hours labor in Japan Quote “Many workers are engaged in long hours of labor”, “Concern about suicide by death from overwork and spiritual harassment continues to occur in the workplace”. We can see the severity of long hours labor in Japan. In this reform, these methods below will be used to solve this problem.
➀Introduction of limitation on overtime work by law amendment.
Review of “36 agreement” is important in this method. In “36 agreement”, it is actually written as labor hours should be 8 hours/day, 40 hours/week. For extension, 45 hours/month and 360 hours/year should be followed. However, there’s special clause added to labor-management agreement which make unlimited working hours become legal. To change this, the new rule will limit the overtime working hours under 100 hours/month, an average of 80 hours during a period of 2~6 months.
②Improvement of the environment for the introduction of interval regulations.
This is already introduced in EU where it is obligatory to give rest for at least 11 consecutive hours for 24 hours.
③Improvement of work environment that is healthy and convenient to work.

⒉Disparity between non-regular and regular employee
For disparity between non-regular and regular employee, actions below will be performed.
➀Improvement of legal system and guidelines to ensure the effectiveness of same labor same wage.
Many people may don’t understand why same labor can’t get same wage. This can be rooted by the different evaluation systems between Japan and other countries. For western companies, it is common that wage is based on job evaluation, while for Japanese companies, wage based on job function is common. This wage system used to support the economy growth in a period in Japan. Due to the change of time/era, it’s also time to change the wage system.
②Promoting career advancement, such as transforming irregular employees into regular employees.

⒊Labor population shortage (Promotion of elderly employment)
Based on the graph above, in 2060, there will be 35 million elderly population comparing to 44 million production population. Therefore, support for elderly employment can be significantly important.

Does it affect foreigners working in Japan?

To solve the problem of labor decline, except for increasing work chances for women and the elders, foreigners are also included in this strategy. The report conducted by Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare shows what foreigners don’t like about Japan employment is "Evaluation system is uncertain" and "Japanese level required is high".Therefore, when it comes to the support for foreign workers in Japan, building an environment where English can be fully-utilized is very important. Following are the other circumstances which government are planning to improve regarding foreign employment.
· Consideration of accepting foreign talents
· Living / Working environment improvement for foreigners
· Further utilization of advanced foreign talents
· Utilization of National Special Strategy Zone
· Utilization of foreign nursing care workers
Based on news Japan government has been actively introducing foreign workers to Japan. Combining all the above information, we can expect a more flexible and nice environment for foreign workers in the future.