Japan moves to eliminate pay gap between regular, contract employees

Blueprint part of broader push to eradicate discrimination

TOKYO (Reuters) — An influential Japanese government panel on Tuesday laid out a raft of proposed changes to the labour law that would eliminate the pay gap between regular and contract employees with the same skills and experience.

The panel has also drawn up amendments that would force companies to pay contract workers bonuses and overtime, and allow them to have vacation time just as regular employees get.

The panel's blueprint is part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's broader push to eradicate discriminatory treatment that part-time workers have endured as a result of Japan's two-tiered labour market.

The proposed revisions to the labour law, likely to be submitted to parliament in 2017, would address long-standing concerns that the consumer spending of contract, part-time and other non-regular workers' is reduced because of their low pay.

In addition, the government will also steps next year to lower Japan's extremely long working hours as a way to increase productivity and help consumer spending, Katsunobu Kato, minister for labour market reform told Reuters on Monday.

The plan unveiled on Tuesday would require companies to pay contract workers at the same rate they pay full-time employees with the same skill and accomplishments.

In some cases, companies have denied to contract workers the kind of benefits they provide regular employees, such as commuting subsides, use of company cafeterias and use of corporate housing.

Under revised labour regulations, companies would be required to end this discrimination and offer contract workers the same benefits.

Japan's government, at the behest of large companies, began promoting contract and non-regular worker status in the 2000s as a way to lower personnel costs and preserve jobs during a prolonged economic slump.

Critics say a steady shift toward hiring contract workers has gone too far, harmed the economy and left many workers vulnerable to abuse by their employers. Currently, around 37 perc ent of Japan's workforce has either contract or non-regular status.

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