JT: The flip side of coveted public-sector jobs in Japan: fewer rights, by being excepted from labor laws


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Hi Blog.  Once again, the JT comes out with an insightful article about the difference between appearance and reality, especially in Japan’s labor market.  Okunuki Hifumi tells us about how Japan’s most-coveted job — civil servant (!) — actually comes with at a price of fewer rights under Japan’s labor laws.  Depending on your status, bureaucrats lack the right to strike, collectively bargain, or unionize (not to mention, as it wasn’t in this article, engage in “political activities”).  And that can severely weaken their ability to fight back when labor abuses occur (see in particular footnote 6) or, as schoolteachers, to educate students about politics.  Read on.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito.


(Photo Caption) Pop quiz: Which of these types of government worker has the right to strike — tax inspectors, schoolteachers, firefighters or public health workers? Answer: None of the above, thanks to an Occupation-era law designed to tamp down the influence of communism. | KYODO PHOTO

The flip side of coveted public-sector jobs in Japan: fewer rights

I research labor law and teach it to university students. In the first class, I break up the two groups of labor laws — those related to individual and collective labor relations — for my students. Individual labor relations law begins and ends with the 1947 Labor Standards Act (rōdō kijun hō); its collective counterpart is surely the 1950 Trade Union Act (rōdō kumiai hō).

About 99.9 percent of my 18-20-year-olds look blank the first time they hear the word “rōdō kumiai,” or labor union. Some of them have arubaito (part-time jobs) and thus already have become rōdōsha (workers) protected by labor laws, but they have not heard of labor unions and have no idea what such a creature looks like. I have my work cut out trying to explain to them the concepts of labor unions, collective bargaining and striking.

A popular professional aspiration among university students today is to join the ranks of kōmuin, or government employees. Civil servants have stable employment, meaning they don’t have to worry about the possibility of being laid off. Their work hours and days off are usually quite favorable compared with those at private-sector firms. (At least that is what is said — that is the reputation. The reality is not so straightforward.)

Once, the hot jobs were high-income positions with finance firms or trading houses, but today’s youth are more sober, preferring a steady, grounded career path. A 2015 poll by Adecco Group asked children between 6 and 15 years old in seven Asian countries and regions what they wanted to be when they grow up. Children in Japan answered in the following order of popularity: 1) company worker; 2) soccer player; 3) civil servant; 4) baseball player. Note the perhaps unexpected answers ranking 1) and 3). “Government employee” made the top 10 only in Japan. […]

Amazingly, each type of civil servant has different labor rights in Japan. I ordinarily teach labor law that protects private-sector employees, so when I tell my students that the labor laws for civil servants differ by type of job, they express shock, particularly when they find out that civil servants have fewer rights than other workers…

Read the rest of the article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/08/21/issues/flip-side-coveted-public-sector-jobs-japan-less-rights/

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2 comments on “JT: The flip side of coveted public-sector jobs in Japan: fewer rights, by being excepted from labor laws

  • Baudrillard says:

    “the government permits all employees to strike except its own” is a succinct summary of working life in Japan. The government legislates for its own employees, while non governmental companies ignore the law when it suits them, e,g. not paying shakai hoken, 29.5 hour contracts etc, because the mindset has always been that government labor laws tend to apply only to the public sector.

    The rule of law does not apply. Laws, and knowledge of the law (witness how the police make up a load of crap to get hotels to monitor foreign looking guests) are at odds with each other and confused.

    A postmodern mess where signs are ignored and do not mean what they say.

    Japan Inc.does what it wants. I could draw comparisons with how the Kwantung Army also ignored the civilian government of Japan as a way of suggesting such behavior has been the norm in Japan for 100 years, but perhaps I digress.

  • Baudrillard says:

    Orwellian parallels here: join the “party” for job stability and better conditions but lose human rights.
    “At the same time, the proles are freer and less intimidated than the middle class Outer Party: they are subject to certain levels of monitoring but are not expected to be particularly patriotic, lack telescreens in their own homes, and often jeer at the telescreens that they see. “The Book” indicates that this state of things derives from the observation that the middle class, not the lower class, traditionally started revolutions. The model demands tight control of the middle class, with ambitious Outer Party members neutralised via promotion to the Inner Party or “reintegration” by Miniluv, while proles can be allowed intellectual freedom because they lack intellect. “1984, wikipedia.

    “The proletariat, or “proles”, live in poverty and are kept sedated with alcohol, pornography and a national lottery”….. Yes, sounds like the life of a salaryman. Especially with more and more Japanese kids below the poverty line.


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