Asahi: Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification: i.e., the gaijinization of all workplaces

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Hi Blog. has previously discussed the curious phenomenon of “Gaijin as Guinea Pig“, where future reforms that put the general public at a disadvantage to the elite are first tested out and normalized through application on Japan’s foreigners.  For example, “Academic Apartheid” (the practice of contracting all NJ educators while granting Japanese educators tenure from day one in Japan’s higher education system) gave way to contract employment for every educator in 1997.  More examples here.

Now according to the Asahi we have the previous legally-enshrined practice of making all workers (roudousha) protected by Japan’s labor laws being chipped away at.  Previously seen in the labor-law exemption given NJ workers under “Trainee” Visas (e.g., foreign factory workers, farm laborers, caregivers), we are now seeing a similar push to exempt all Japanese workers from labor law protections.

Japan hopes to make themselves more attractive to international labor migration when they’re in process of making an exploitative labor market even more so, for everybody?  Again, deserves to be known about.  Arudou Debito


Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification
Asahi Shimbun AJW, March 16, 2013, courtesy of MP

Business leaders at a government panel have proposed that employers in Japan be allowed to fire workers at their discretion as a way to improve the nation’s economic growth.

Members of the Industrial Competitiveness Council called March 15 for rules that will, in principle, allow employers to dismiss regular employees freely if the workers are compensated with “re-employment support.”

The council is chaired by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The proposal was made by Yasuchika Hasegawa, chairman of Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), and president of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., and others.

Article 16 of the Labor Contract Law stipulates that there must be reasonable grounds for a dismissal. Employers are not permitted to sack workers unless they have valid reasons, such as poor performance, disciplinary offenses or reducing the work force as a result of financial trouble.

Hasegawa and other members suggested that the Labor Contract Law should be amended to allow employers to dismiss workers at their discretion.

They also called for the establishment of a system in which employers would be able to fire workers without a valid reason as long as they provide them so-called monetary re-employment support.

In addition, they said the Labor Contract Law should make it clear in what instances dismissals would not be permitted.

In many European countries, if a court determines that a dismissal is unlawful, the employer can still dissolve the employment relationship by paying the fired employee compensation–usually one to two years worth of salary.

But if a similar court decision was made in Japan, workers would have few options other than returning to their former workplaces.

The system the panel in Japan is pushing differs from the European labor practice in that employers would be able to freely sack workers without reasonable grounds as long as they pay compensation.

Panel members said the proposed system would not only increase liquidity in the labor market, but benefit workers, depending on the amount of compensation paid.

The panel includes 10 leaders from the private sector and is expected to come up with a proposed economic growth strategy by June.

6 comments on “Asahi: Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification: i.e., the gaijinization of all workplaces

  • Things are continually going down since Abe got re-elected. No doubt this is the first step of the LDP/JRP pro-imperialist crew chipping away the rights of Japanese and whatever is left of NJ rights. Abe is all about “taking back Japan” for the business elites, post-war politicians, nationalists and right-wing politicians. For the average person, not so much.

    Commoners are encouraged to “gaman” or “gambatte” and given flowery nationalistic speeches to ensure the people remain in dreamland. In the U.S. and elsewhere you would have people marching the streets about this. Yet in Japan, things seem awfully quite and it seems like the Japanese simply accept their fate as it is.

    In regards to the infamous “Occupy Movements” I have been reading about in 2012, I don’t seem to recall any “Occupy Movement” or major protest in regards to poverty, unemployment, labor rights and working conditions happening in Japan. Yet you find no shortage of demonstrations and “protests” by Japanese nationalists calling for the killing of NJ or blame worsening work and living conditions on NJ.

  • giantpanda says:

    This does not seem to be aimed at foreigners at all – but would apply to all workers regardless of nationality. In my opinion, knowing how difficult the employment laws make it for employers to run their businesses, a modified version of what is proposed would be very welcome. Current laws make it so difficult to get rid of unproductive, incompetent and in some cases abusive employees, that it is crippling businesses, both foreign and Japanese. I don’t think that employers should be able to oust employees without a reason (aka “employment at will” American style) but there has to be some reasonableness that allows companies to remove employees when they need to. The current system dates back to the era of lifetime employment, which frankly does not exist anymore.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    This is absolutely horrific and outrageous. The Hawk and his gangs are calling for the triumph of corporate capitalism to the detriment of disenfranchising workers. I can hear them yelling “corporations are people!” back at fired workers like Mitt Romney—or corporate reform minded folks from both camps (i.e., Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, Arnie Duncan, Michelle Rhee) who will go to any length to sack workers or destroy labor unions. Just like corporate reformers in the US or elsewhere, these J business leaders could behave just like Koch Bothers and Kato Institutes by lobbying legislatures to cut public bureaucracy for their own convenience. Making nasty cost-cutting schemes by sacking experienced workers and hiring dime a dozen, expendable workers to exploitation. As long as they were able to give hush money, that’s fine because they are people who use money as speech? Such corporate pundits!

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    I agree emphatically with Bayfield #1.
    My initial reaction after reading this article was along the same lines as Debito and Loverilakkuma #3.
    However, distasteful though corporate culture is, I find my self agreeing upon reflection with much of what Giantpanda #2 says. I’ll tell you why….

    Japan/Japan Inc. has had the last 20 years to make the structural changes required to overcome economic difficulties, switch to a domestic consumption/service economy model, and improve quality of life (such as that is) by introducing shorter working hours, more free time and associated leisure spending, ownership of larger properties filled with consumer goods etc.

    However, Japan/Japan Inc. has refused point blank to accept that they are grasping desperately to an economic model that worked well in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, but that is not competitive in this globalized era. They have refused to change, despite the changes in the world economy. Quite the opposite, all of the ‘window dressing’ changes of the last 20 years; Koizumi’s introduction of legislation to increase the use of temp workers, restructuring staff out of jobs, moving off shore and some hollowing out, have all been half-hearted and temporary measures to enable manufacturing to survive until the (delusion of a) return to a post bubble economy and growth of manufacturing occurs.

    I think that in one sense, Giantpanda is correct; this legislation will be presented as an effort to move Japan into line with international norms (since when has that ever been a concern for Japanese policy makers?). I suspect that the reality is that this is seen to be another stop-gap measure to last only until the ‘second coming’ of Japan’s economic miracle occurs (don’t hold your breath whilst waiting).

    Since the Japanese can barely be shook from the ‘dreamy day’ by multiple nuclear catastrophe, I suspect that this legislation will pass with little opposition until it is too late. If I was a cynic (and I am) I would say, on balance, ‘so what?’. Who will be affected by this? I read somewhere that these days only about 40% of the J-workforce are employed as ‘life time employment’ company workers. Who are those people anyway? As far as I can make out, they are the graduates of the ‘best’ universities but are actually in possession of very little initiative or other practical skills. These are the people who can’t make decisions quickly, or take responsibility, or ‘think outside of the box’ and ‘break the mold’, thus ensuring that the decline of their company continues at an unabated pace.

    These are the elitist self-styled ‘betters’ and corporate haves, whose company’s almost 0% interest rate borrowing of the tax payers money is helping stack up the national debt, whilst all the time goofing off at work and then huffing over how much they ‘ganbare’ with service over-time before having a nomikai, or taking a customer to a hostess club on expenses, then giggle like girls whilst they drunkenly stagger for the train upon which they huff and puff about not having enough leg room with which to sit knees akimbo (whilst, of course, retaining enough sense to avoid sitting next to a NJ of all things!).

    In short, these leeches are part of the problem. They are trading on the image of their fathers years of hard work (such as it ever was). Just like in the Reagan and Thatcher years, companies will soon realize that laying off the greater part of these under-motivated and underproductive losers will cut their overheads and improve the company balance sheet, sending the Tokyo stock exchange to new heights, which I am confidant will be trumpeted as proof of Sick-note’s success! And will the Japanese lap it up? What value national pride when there is no food on the table, no steady income, and the value of your savings is dropping like a stone?

    Sick-note wants to improve the economy by encouraging consumer spending? Well, laid-off workers aren’t going to go on a spending spree, are they? But, to be honest, I have no sympathy for these puffed up and arrogant worker bees. ALL salarymen have been living on borrowed time for the last 20 years. Now they can face the music, feel the fear, show that they stand out from the crowd, or be shown the door. Why should I resist on their behalf? It’s a clear case of ‘when they came for me, there was no one left’.

    Maybe the end of the salaryman image will help J-society realize that the dreamy day is just a dream, and rather than drawing out the delusion and the pain, they will end this incarnation of ‘Japan’ and build a better society that values quality of life and diversity. I’ll just go and get my fiddle…

    — The big assumption being made above is that this job insecurity will shake up the “leech” category of worker you refer to above. I don’t think that they will be all that affected. The executives will be making the decisions, and they will just renew their own job statuses. Like the executives in the academic world have done when deciding to downsize all their educators, as per the example I gave of Japanese universities (they’re the executive decisionmakers, not the rank and file) over the past fifteen years.

    The main reason we have Labor Law Standards at all is to empower the powerless with some rights to job security in the face of the elite (that’s why they were instituted in Postwar Japan, in theory to stop the exploitative engines of the Zaibatsu driving the economy and the people into uncontrollable directions). When that is taken away, I don’t see universal application because there will be always be a hierarchy, and the people at the top of the hierarchy never apply the same rules to themselves unless they are somehow forced to (they won’t be; that’s one of the trappings of the upper echelons of a hierarchy). I don’t see how this legal reform will force that.

    I understand the Schadenfreude. I suggest we don’t let it blind us to the political subterfuge here. It’s not about economic prowess. It’s about power.

  • You may find this ironic, but the US and the American chamber of commerce in Tokyo has been lobbying the J government for many years for just such a development. For what it is worth, I don’t think they are proposing American style “employment at will”, but at least a form of statutory severance, which would allow companies to lay workers off by paying a substantial sum of money. This is infinitely better than the current situation, and at least would give businesses some certainty about restructuring costs. As an added side effect, perhaps it would actually reduce the numbers of temporary workers – the current large numbers of dispatch workers and contract workers has been directly caused by the suffocating burden of not being able to legally remove regular employees, and businesses seeking a way around that.

  • I’d just like to echo GP’s comments, the bounce that there’s been from lifetime employment to no job security at all (for many) is mad and it’s clear, at least from my experience here, that no-one really knows how to handle it in a sane manner. For example, my employer, despite being under direct ministry control, is trying every trick in the book to undermine and delay the implementation of the new law about long-term contract staff. Statutory severance sounds like something not too dissimilar to the UK system, and could be a sane middle ground if sensibly implemented (of course that’s a big if). UK statutory redundancy pay is about a week’s salary for each year of service, but good employers often offer quite a bit more than that, and may also offer extra incentives for volunteers when they need to cut the workforce, rather than going through the process of selecting people to fire. Sacking people is never a nice process, but there are better and worse ways of doing it, and companies that have more costs than income have to be able to do something about it…

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