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Major companies in Japan moving away from spousal allowances: Mainichi survey

Twelve out of 124 major companies in a recent Mainichi Shimbun survey say they will stop paying allowances for employees with spouses, while another 73 (59 percent) say they have abolished or do not offer such stipends in the first place -- highlighting a trend to eliminate such benefits.

    Four companies, or 3 percent, said they will cut back on the payments, while 16 companies, or 13 percent, said they would leave them as they were.

    Many companies that pay the allowances match the payment conditions with the system for spouse-related income tax deductions, not offering them if the employee's spouse makes over 1.03 million yen a year. In many cases, the spouse, often the wife, has to limit how much he or she works in order for the allowance to be paid. Paired with the spousal income tax deduction, the allowance has been criticized as obstructing the employment of women.

    Under fiscal 2017 tax reforms, the government has proposed raising the limit for receiving a full spousal income tax deduction from 1.03 million yen a year to 1.5 million yen a year. While this could allow people working part-time to work more hours, it is believed that unless companies' rules for paying the spousal allowance change, the trend of spouses holding down their working hours will continue. For this reason, the government is calling on companies to revise their payment rules.

    The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), meanwhile, plans to call on its member companies to reduce or eliminate their spousal allowance payments.

    In giving a reason for reducing or eliminating allowances for spouses, Mitsubishi Materials Corp. said, "We will support the employment of women." Kyocera Corp said the reason was "to adapt to the trends of society," while T&D Holdings said it was "to create a system that evaluates employees based on their kind of work and their performance."

    Among companies not eliminating the payments, one power company said, "We would not be able to gain the understanding of employees who would take a loss," while a railway company stated, "We will decide what to do later based on societal trends." One logistics company, meanwhile, said, "We have not had any discussions (about eliminating the payments)."

    The survey also asked the companies about any intentions to switch from the spousal allowance payments to other types of payments. Twenty-four companies, or 19 percent, said they already had, and 15 companies, or 12 percent, said they were considering doing so. In many cases, the switch was to payments for child-raising or for nursing care for the elderly.

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