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No.76(2012/1/30)
Municipalities Enact Public Contract Ordinances to Ensure Working Conditions
In December 2011 the cities of Tama, Metropolitan Tokyo, and Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, enacted public contract ordinances, as a result of which there are now four municipalities in Japan with such ordinances. The others are the cities of Noda, Chiba Prefecture, and Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, which enacted public contract ordinances in September 2009 and December 2010, respectively. In addition, the establishment of public contract ordinances is under consideration in such municipalities as Kokubunji, Metropolitan Tokyo, and Sapporo, Hokkaido.
Public contracts are contracts concluded by the state or local governments with private companies, including nongovernmental organizations, relating to trade, leasing, contracting, consignment, and so on. Against the background of a tight fiscal situation, due to such factors as the need for increased efficiency in public services, rising demand for cost reductions, and intense bidding competition for public contracts, there has been an increase in the number of low-price and low-cost contracts and orders. For this reason, the business conditions of companies receiving orders are deteriorating, which in turn is giving rise to the problem of lowering wages and working conditions for the people employed by them.
The International Labour Organization's Convention No. 94 on labour clauses in public contracts and Recommendation No. 84 clearly stipulate that measures must be taken to prevent the decline of wages and working conditions due to public contracts.
The ordinance of Tama in Metropolitan Tokyo stipulates "ensuring appropriate working conditions and endeavoring to achieve the stability of workers' livelihood" as a goal. The targeted businesses are subcontractors and reconsignments. and contracting businesses like one-master carpentry and dispatched workers themselves are included in this category as well. Regarding the lowest limit of remuneration for the work or for the services, the ordinance stipulates that amounts should be considered by dividing workers into skilled workers and others (and decided after hearing the opinion of a public contract council with the participation of worker representatives). Furthermore, in cases where a company receiving an order from a public contract changes, the ordinance significantly obliges the new company to make efforts to continue the employment of workers previously engaged in the project.
RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) has been campaigning since 2008 for the central government to enact basic legislation on public contracts and local governments to establish public contract ordinances. At the central level, RENGO has engaged in policy consultations with the government and lobbied political parties, and at the local level it has held study meetings and lobbied political parties, local governments, and local assemblies. Clearly RENGO's activities are steadily bearing fruit.
MHLW Announces Results of Survey on Job Offers for March 2012 Graduates
On January 17 the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW) released the results of a survey conducted in December 2011, together with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT), on job-offer conditions for students graduating in March 2012. The survey covered universities, junior colleges, technical colleges, and vocational schools throughout Japan.
The survey revealed that as of December, the job-offer ratio for expectant university graduates was 71.9%, 3.1 percentage points higher than the previous year's all-time low. The ratio for junior college students was 47.9%, an improvement of 2.6 points, but this still meant that nearly half of expectant junior college graduates were without job offers at the turn of the year. Similarly, the ratio for expectant vocational school graduates was 58.6%, meaning that two out of five students had not yet received job offers.
In contrast, the job-offer ratio for expectant technical college graduates was 97.2%, up 2.5 points year on year. One of the reasons for this high figure is that technical colleges are educational institutions that train engineers, teaching special trades deeply and cultivating the skills necessary for employment.
Explaining that "although there has been an improvement over the previous year for universities, junior colleges, and vocational schools, their job-offer ratios are still severe," the MHLW and MEXT announced a policy of endeavoring to improve the job-hunting environment.
While the job-offer ratios for expectant graduates are harsh, together with changes in the labour market, the employment situation for young people in general is exacerbating the situation. According to a September 2011 labour force survey conducted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, while the average unemployment rate for all age groups is 4.1%, the figure rises to 7.2% for people aged 24 years or under and 5.3% for people aged 25-34 years. Moreover, the number of young people not working, not studying, and not engaged in household work is 240,000 in the 15-24 age group and 340,000 in the 25-34 age group. These figures show that the employment situation for young people is becoming increasingly serious.
In its regular policy consultations with the government and on other occasions, RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) has made demands for additional economic measures emphasizing job-hunting support for young people in order to improve the harsh employment situation for new graduates. These demands are leading to the expansion of job opportunities for young people through, among other things, the establishment of a job expansion incentive and revision of the Guidelines to Ensure Job Opportunities for Young People.
In addition, in order to provide more job-application opportunities, RENGO is urging positive consideration of the introduction of such schemes as year-round recruitment and the creation of jobs.
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