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No.204(2016/1/29)
RENGO-RIALS Survey Reveals Conditions of Nonregular Workers
---Low Wages and Low Level of Satisfaction with Life---

The Research Institute for Advancement of Living Standards (RIALS), a think tank of RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), conducted its second Survey on Employment Patterns and Attitudes of Nonregular Workers in October 2015 using the Internet. The following is an outline of the survey's results.

Nonregular workers are workers with fixed-term jobs (in contrast to regular workers, who conclude employment contracts with no fixed term). According to a labour force survey of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, there are 19.62 million nonregular workers in Japan accounting for 37.4% of the total number of workers. Of them, 70% are women. Almost all nonregular workers have low wages and no opportunities to develop their skills. Furthermore, their employment instability is a problem; for example, companies often unilaterally terminate work contracts.

According to a survey by the National Tax Agency, the average annual wage in 2014 was 4.78 million yen for regular workers and 1.70 million yen for nonregular workers.

30% of Multiple-Job Workers Work over 45 Hours a Week

In the RENGO-RIALS survey also, women accounted for 72.6% of respondents. The average age of respondents was 35.6 years, and the average length of employment in their present job was 3.6 years.

The survey corroborated the commonly held view that the working hours of fixed-term workers are generally shorter than those of regular employees, with 24.3% of respondents working under 20 hours a week and 23.5% working 20-29 hours a week. In other words, half of the survey's respondents worked under 30 hours a week.

The problem of the low wages of fixed-term workers was mentioned above. In the survey, 11.9% of respondents had two or more jobs. Regarding the working hours of these multiple-job respondents, 18.8% of them worked less than 20 hours a week and 19.2% worked 20-29 hours a week, but notably 29.3% worked more than 45 hours a week (17.5% for 45-59 hours a week and 11.8% for 60 hours or over).

Nonregular Workers: Low Wages and Low Level of Satisfaction with Life

Regarding the annual income of nonregular workers, 35% of respondents, the highest ratio, earned under 1 million yen, followed by 31.7% receiving from 1 million yen to under 2 million yen and 20.8% earning from 2 million yen to under 3 million yen. One of the reasons why the highest ratio received under 1 million yen is that annual income up to 1.03 million yen is not subject to income tax. In many cases the respondents in this group had spouses with regular jobs, and their income often served as a supplement to the household budget. In this survey, 53.9% of respondents, of whom 83.7% were women, replied that they were working to supplement the household budget.

In contrast, 25.3% of respondents replied that they were the only income earners or the principal income earners in their household. When the 8.3% of respondents replying that their wages accounted for around half of household income are added, it can be said that 33.9% were the main breadwinners in their household. By gender, 49.0% of men (nearly half) and 28.1% of women were the main income earners in their household.

Regarding the income of these main breadwinners, 37.5% of men and 48.9% of women earned an annual income of less than 2 million yen, and 55.7% of men and 48.4% of women earned an annual income from 2 million yen to under 4 million yen.

Regarding level of satisfaction with life, while 44.4% of the main breadwinners whose income accounted for more than half of household income replied that they were dissatisfied with life, 45.3% of respondents whose income accounted for less than half of household income (supplemental income) answered that they were satisfied with life.

38.4% of Nonregular Workers Not Eligible for Company Training

Only 21.2% of respondents replied that they had experience of attending a training program organized by their company. There was no significant difference by gender and absolutely no difference in terms of length of employment. By company size, the larger the company, the higher was the ratio of respondents with training experience. The smaller the company, the more likely it was to have no training program at all. Incidentally, 36.6% of respondents replied that they did not know whether or not their company had a training program.

When respondents who said they had no experience of attending a training program organized by their company were asked the reason, as many as 38.4% said that nonregular workers were not eligible, followed by 19.1% replying that they did not want to and 15.2% that they had no time.

※RENGO-RIALS was founded on December 1, 1987, as a think tank for working people. It conducts a wide range of surveys and research on such topics as economic, social, industrial, and labour problems in Japan and other countries with the aim of contributing substantially to the livelihood improvement of workers and their families, the sound development of the Japanese economy, and employment stability.

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