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No.119(2013/3/19)
Survey Reveals Number of Fixed-Term Contract Workers
in Japan to Be 14.10 Million

The number of workers in Japan with fixed-term employment contracts, including long-, medium- and short-term contracts, is 14.10 million, according to a report on the January labour force survey released on March 1 by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. Until now the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare had estimated the number to be 12 million. The difference is due to a change in the survey method, introduced ahead of enforcement of the revised Labour Contract Act from April 1, in order to grasp the actual state of fixed-term employment, which is unstable and offers inferior conditions.

Previously the labour force survey had been conducted by classifying workers into three categories: "full-time employment" workers, who work either on an unfixed-term basis or for a fixed term of more than one year (long term); "temporary employment" workers, who work for a fixed term of over one month but no more than one year (medium term); and "daily employment" workers, who work for a fixed term of less than one month (short term). From the January survey, "full-time employment" has been divided into "unfixed-term employment" and "fixed-term employment."

The January survey revealed that among "full-time employment" workers, "fixed-term employment" workers numbered 8.85 million, while "temporary employment" workers numbered 4.3 million and "daily employment" workers 0.86 million, giving a total of 14.10 million. Among the "full-time employment" workers, the number of people working on an unfixed- or indefinite-term basis was 37.12 million.

The "five-year clause" of the revised Labour Contract Act, which is to be enforced from April 1, gives fixed-term contract workers the right to demand a switch to unfixed-term employment, like regular workers, if they have worked for five years or more with repeated contract renewals. The law also prohibits unreasonable discrimination against fixed-term contract workers stemming from their status. These provisions will cover the 14.10 million fixed-term contract workers, who account for 25.9% of the 54.52 million employed workers in Japan (excluding agriculture and forestry).

RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), which is now engaged in the 2013 Spring Labour Struggle for the Betterment of Livelihood (shunto), is urging its affiliates to tackle the issue of non-regular workers. Specifically, RENGO is calling on unions to monitor the observance of laws and regulations in the workplace in order to protect the rights of non-regular workers, including fixed-term contract workers and dispatched workers.

RENGO is also asking its affiliates to grasp the actual state of affairs concerning how many non-regular workers are assigned in workplaces and what their duties are, to provide union information, to organize non-regular workers, and to address the improvement of their conditions. Together with its regional branches, RENGO is providing labour-related services by setting up hot lines for non-regular workers and also conducting an awareness-raising campaign on the content of the revised Worker Dispatch Act. Furthermore, through its consultations with Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), RENGO is urging the business organization to encourage its members to improve the working conditions and skills of non-regular workers.

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