The Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare released the results of its 2017 Basic Survey of Trade Unions on December 25. This annual survey, which covers all trade unions in Japan, seeks to clarify the actual trade union situation in the country, 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, 2017, the number of single trade unions in Japan was 24,465, and the total number of their members was 9,981,000. Compared to the previous year, while the number of single trade unions had decreased by 217 (-0.9%), their membership had increased by 41,000 (0.4%).
The estimated organization rate (that is, the ratio of union members to the total number of employed persons) was 17.1%, down 0.2 percentage points from the previous year. The number of women union members was 3,268,000, an increase of 76,000 (2.4%), and the estimated organization rate 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.
Trends in Number of Labour Unions and Members and Organization Rate
|Members (1,000 persons)
|Estimated organization rate (%)
Membership by Industry
By industry, the manufacturing industry had the highest union membership at 2,608,000 members (26.3% of the total), followed by the wholesale and retail industry at 1,413,000 (14.2% of the total) and then the transport industry and postal service at 859,000 (8.7% of the total).
The biggest year-on-year rise in union members was seen in the hotel, restaurant, and catering industry with an increase of 29,000 (12.3%). This was followed by the wholesale and retail industry with an increase of 27,000 (2.0%).
Membership by Company Size
The number of union members in private companies (enterprise-based unions) was 8,549,000, an increase of 58,000 (0.7%) over the previous year; the estimated organization rate was 16.0%. By company size, the total number of union members in companies with 1,000 or more employees was 5,549,000 (64.9% of total union membership); the estimated organization rate in such companies was 44.3%. Companies with 300-999 employees had 1,150,000 union members (13.4% of total union membership), and companies with 100-299 employees had 606,000 union members (7.1% of total union membership); the estimated organization rate in such companies was 11.8%.
Membership of Part-Time Workers
The number of part-time workers belonging to unions was 1,208,000, an increase of 77,000 (6.8%) over the previous year. Part-time workers accounted for 12.2% of all union members, and their estimated organization rate was 7.9%. Both of these ratios were the highest ever.
In response, RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) General Secretary Yasunobu Aihara commented on the same day as the release of the survey results that although the number of trade union members has increased due to the rise in the number of employed persons, the downward trend of the organization rate has not been halted.
Regarding RENGO, membership has increased to 6,790,000 members, a rise of 46,000 over the previous year, and the ratio of RENGO members to total trade union members was 69.4%, up 0.2 points from the previous year. General Secretary Aihara noted that RENGO's success in increasing its membership was thanks to the all-out efforts of RENGO and related organizations in holding activities.
RENGO is promoting a policy of realizing 10 million members by 2020, when it will mark the thirtieth anniversary of its founding. General Secretary Aihara emphasized that the unionization of unorganized workers is fundamental for realizing a "secure society built around work as its core," which is RENGO's aim, and essential for working people, enterprises, and industries alike.