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Union density rate rises in Japan

Japan's overall unionization rate picked up for the first time since 1975 for the membership among irregular employees has sharply increased, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced. The estimated union density rate (percentage of trade union members among all employees) for 2009 was 18.5%, up 0.4% from the previous year, according to the government's Basic Survey on Trade Unions conducted in June this year. It is the first time in the past 34 years that the nation's union membership marked a year-on-year growth. Increased membership among non-permanent workers, on top of a shrinking labor population, is considered to have contributed to the rise in percentage, reported the Mainichi Daily News.
The union membership ratio in Japan stopped falling for the first time in 27 years in 2007, mainly because of the mounting expectations for union help as the unemployment rate remained high. The survey revealed that the number of union members increased by 0.1 % to 10.078 million, while the number of enterprise-based unions decreased by 269 to 26,696. The nation's total working population also declined by 1.1 million to 54.55 million people.
Among industries, accommodation and food services saw its unionization rate go up significantly by11.2 % compared to the previous year, followed by a 6.9 % rise for wholesale and retail industry and 4 % for transport and postal services, while it decreased both for construction businesses and civil workers by 3.1 %.
The total number of JTUC-RENGO members was 6,830,000 which represented an increase of 71,000 and a share in the total number of organized workers of 67.8%. In his comment on the survey report on December 10, Mr. Hiroyuki Nagumo, General Secretary of RENGO, observed that the number of RENGO members has turned to an upward trend.
Mr. Nagumo said that RENGO, through its job security and job creation efforts, will continue to strongly promote campaigns for organizing not only non-regular workers including part time workers but also workers in local industries and small and medium-sized enterprises as well as those in other subsidiary companies, with the aim of recovering a "seven million-strong RENGO" as soon as possible.

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