A bill that was framed at bringing in reforms in working styles in Japan was enacted in to law by the Diet on Friday. There were however concerns among the opposition about the potential of the legislation to foster long working hours.
Changing Japan’s notorious overwork culture through the bill was being pushed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government.
“The legislation has been enacted to allow people to have different work styles, including while raising children or caring for (the elderly),” Abe told reporters at his office following the enactment.
A pledge to move ahead with work-style reforms “from the viewpoint of workers” was also taken by the prime minister.
The bill was passed by the lower house last month. The upper house enacted the bill into law which revises eight labor-related laws.
There are three major sections of the legislation. The first is legally capping overtime work. The second pillar is making sure that there is “equal pay for equal work” for regular and nonregular workers while the third aspect is the exemption of the skilled professional workers who are paid high wages from the regulations of the working-hours.
A major source of contention between the ruling and opposition parties was the last item that is known as the “white collar overtime exemption”.
The target of it are the professional employees which includes dealers at financial institutions and researchers with annual salaries of over 10.75 million yen ($97,000). “Flexible and diverse work styles” would be possible because the scheme according to the government because the scheme judge workers on the basis of results instead of the hours worked.
This legislation also obligates employers to make sure that such professional workers are given at least 104 days off every year.
However, there has been opposition to this assumption of the government claiming that the system would result in an enhancement in “karoshi,” or death from overwork. The last item has also been criticized as a “zero overtime pay” scheme.
Anger was expressed by Akira Koike, head of the secretariat of the opposition Japanese Communist Party, who said described the bill as “the worst postwar labor legislation change” and the law had been had been forced through parliament on the basis of the number of members of the ruling party.
There is also some degree of skepticism about the impact of the legislation among the public. just over 40 per cent of respondents participating in a Kyodo News survey conducted earlier this month opined that they were skeptical about improvement in working conditions.by the work-style reform legislation.
Anger was also expressed by the members of an organization that represents families of employees who died of overwork.
“I was confronted with the reality that a bereaved family member is powerless,” said the group’s leader, Emiko Teranishi. Her husband had committed suicide because of depression linked to overwork. She urged the government to reconsider the legislation.
(Adapted from JapanToday.com)