The Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare released the results of its 2016 Basic Survey of Trade Unions on December 16. This annual survey, which covers all trade unions in Japan, seeks to clarify the actual trade union situation, such as the number of trade unions and union members and the distribution of union members at enterprise, industrial, and national levels.
Number of Trade Unions and Union Members
As of June 30, 2016, the number of single trade unions in Japan was 24,682, and the total number of their members was 9,940,000. Compared to the previous year, while the number of single trade unions decreased by 301 (-1.2%), their membership increased by 58,000 (0.6%).
The estimated unionization ratio (that is, the ratio of union members to the total number of employed persons) was 17.3%, down 0.1% from the previous year. The number of women union members was 3,192,000, an increase of 72,000 (2.3%), and the estimated unionization ratio among women (that is, the ratio of women union members to the total number of employed women) was 12.5%, the same level as in the previous year.
Membership by Industry
By industry, the manufacturing industry had the highest union membership at 2,622,000 (26.5% of the total), followed by the wholesale and retail industry at 1,386,000 (14.0% of the total) and then the transport and postal service at 859,000 (8.7% of the total).
The biggest year-on-year rise in union members was seen in the wholesale and retail industry, which recorded an increase of 49,000 (up 3.7%). This was followed by the hotel, restaurant, and catering industry with an increase of 26,000 (up 12.4%). Substantial union membership was also seen in the manufacturing industry (up 4,000, or 0.2%) and the public sector (down 13,000, or 1.4%).
Membership by Company Size
The number of union members in private companies (enterprise-based unions) was 8,491,000, an increase of 87,000 (1.0%) over the previous year; the estimated unionization ratio was 16.2%. By company size, the total number of union members in companies with 1,000 employees or more was 5,517,000 (65% of total union membership); the estimated unionization ratio in such companies was 44.3%. Companies with 300-999 employees had 1,600,000 union members (13.7% of total union membership), and companies with 100-299 employees had 610,000 union members (7.2% of total union membership); the estimated unionization ratio in such companies was 12.2%.
Membership of Part-Time Workers
The number of part-time workers belonging to unions was 1,131,000, an increase of 106,000 (10.3%) over the previous year. Part-time workers accounted for 11.4% of all union members, and their estimated unionization ratio was 7.5%. Both of these ratios were the highest ever.
In response, General Secretary Naoto Oumi of RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) commented on the same day as the release of the survey results that the number of trade union members is good but the downward trend of the unionization rate has not been halted because of the increase in the number of employed persons.
General Secretary Oumi added, however, that even in such adverse circumstances, the membership of RENGO has increased to 6,750,000 members, a rise of 4,000 over the previous year, and the ratio of RENGO members to total trade union members was 69.2%, down 0.5 points from the previous year. He noted that RENGO's success in increasing its membership despite the overall fall in the number of union members was thanks to the all-out efforts of RENGO and related organizations in holding activities.
General Secretary Oumi emphasized that the unionization of unorganized workers and building of collective labour-management relations are fundamental for realizing a "secure society built around work as its core," which is RENGO's aim, and are essential for working people, enterprises, and industries alike.
Finally, General Secretary Oumi stated that RENGO’s organizing activities are extremely important in order to achieve success in the 2017 spring struggle for the betterment of livelihood (shunto), which will emphasize the raising and uplifting of wages and correction of disparities.