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Gov't aims to bridge pay gap between permanent, temporary employees

Hoping to achieve a system of "equal pay for equal work," wherein temporary workers receive the same payment as permanent employees if they perform the same jobs, the government has released an outline of its guidelines regarding case studies of "unjust wage differentials," which are set to be compiled by the end of the year.

    While calling for part-time workers to receive treatment equal to that of full-time employees in areas such as commuting expense reimbursement, sick leave allotment, and the use of the company cafeteria, the guidelines do allow for disparities in base wages -- which are closely related to one's job duties -- if a legitimate reason exists in this regard with respect to matters such as an employee's experience or qualifications.

    The government intends to revise three laws: the Part-time Employment Act, the Labor Contracts Act and the law regarding dispatched workers, and hopes to put them into force by fiscal 2019. The guidelines are being drawn up in order to encourage companies to take voluntary steps in this regard during the interim period.

    The guidelines state that matters such as the reimbursement of transportation expenses and the use of company eating facilities are equally necessary for both permanent and temporary employees, and that differential treatment in this regard is therefore unjust.

    According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, 85.6 percent of regular employees are reimbursed for their work commuting expenses, while the figure for temporary workers stands only at 65.1 percent.

    And while 82.7 percent of full-time workers are granted congratulatory and condolence leave, this is the case for a mere 42.2 percent of part-timers -- a situation that the guidelines are aiming to rectify.

    The government is additionally considering a recommendation whereby both categories of workers would receive equal treatment in terms of retirement allowances and corporate pensions in cases where their length of employment is the same.

    The number of part-time employees has risen to encompass 37.5 percent of the entire domestic working population -- but the gap in treatment between such workers and their permanent counterparts remains large.

    The plan to promote the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens, which was approved by the Cabinet on June 2, aims to increase the pay scale for temporary workers from its present level -- which stands at 60 percent of the figure for full-time employees -- to 80 percent, which would put Japan on par with European nations.

    Because the legal revisions will take time to implement, the guidelines were drawn up as a temporary measure -- but their lack of a strong legal basis means that it will not likely be easy to implement them in a timely manner, and so the extent of their effectiveness remains unclear.

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