Activity reports E-mail magazine

“RENGO Strengthens Support for Freelance Workers – Workers in the cultural, performing arts, and artistic fields are a priority -“


>RENGO, Japan’s national center for trade unions, is increasing its support for freelance workers. The status of freelance workers—whether employees or self-employed—is often unclear, and this frequently makes it difficult to resolve grievances due to ambiguity of contracts or compensation. To remedy this situation, in 2020 RENGO confirmed its policy on support for freelancers and certain other workers. This policy includes clarification of legal protections for employment, creation of networks in which workers can participate, and support for work risks such as accident compensation.

At the moment, the number of freelance workers in Japan is increasing. According to a government survey (Cabinet Secretariat, 2020), the number of people working as freelancers is 4.62 million. Of these, 2.14 million were freelancers as their main occupation, and 2.48 million were primarily employed by companies or other organizations and did freelancing as a side job. The term “freelance” here refers to workers outside of the agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries who run their own businesses but do not employ employees and do not have offices or other physical places of business.

On November 18, RENGO held its first task force (Advisory Board) meeting in Tokyo with freelance workers, labor unions, researchers, and lawyers to work toward solutions to problems related to freelancing. At this meeting, freelance workers and their respective organizations reported on the difficult situation in regard to employment. They also expressed a desire to strengthen cooperation with RENGO to resolve these various issues.

In response to these discussions, the Advisory Board determined that the immediate focus of its activities would be in the areas of culture, performing arts, and the arts, and that a model “standard contract” in these areas would be developed. It was also decided that efforts would be made to conduct a survey of the actual circumstances of freelance workers from the perspective of workers, to conduct research on advanced overseas cases, and to promote recurrent education. Furthermore, the Advisory Board plans to hold a “Freelance Summit” in the spring of 2023 to promote the results of its efforts and further expand its activities.

In Japan, the government is also promoting measures aimed at freelance workers. In 2021, guidelines were established to optimize the business relationship between freelance workers and their clients, and to improve the working environment. Also under consideration is the enactment of laws based on the concepts set forth in these guidelines. This serves as an entry point for legal measures by the government, but it is also expected to boost the efforts of RENGO and freelance workers through optimization of transactions and strengthening of the functions of the Japan Fair Trade Commission.