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Promote work style reform to keep social, economic vitality of Japan

The Yomiuri ShimbunReforming work styles and preparing an environment in which a variety of people will be able to play an active role — this will help maintain the nation’s social and economic vitality. It is imperative not to forget this perspective.

Women continue to work while raising children after childbirth. Even when nursing care is required for a family member, it is possible to balance it with work. Middle-aged and elderly people can acquire skills and find new jobs.

It is essential to make such flexible work styles possible, but there are many hurdles to clear before this can be realized.

One of these challenges is the correction of long working hours. Work style reform-related laws have been enforced sequentially since April. As a result, a ceiling has been set for overtime hours, for which there was in effect previously no limit, with punitive steps being taken for violators.

If people work in places where overtime work is conducted on a routine basis, it is hard for them to secure time for child-rearing and nursing care. Such a situation has produced the result that a great number of people failed to continue working even if they had the motivation and capabilities to do so.

It is natural that political parties have emphasized the necessity of rectifying the practice of long working hours in their campaigns for the upcoming House of Councillors election. Regulations on overtime will also apply to small and medium-sized firms, starting next fiscal year. To steadily decrease overtime, it is indispensable to be mindful of measures for such companies that are financially fragile.

At the same time, businesses are called on to make efforts such as eliminating wasteful practices by reviewing work content and enhancing efficiency by utilizing information technology.

Expand options, assistance

It is also important to augment the number of work style options.

Some companies have begun to adopt telecommuting and systems that allow individual employees to set times for reporting to and leaving work according to their convenience. There is a president who explains his company’s flexible work style to client companies in an effort to seek their understanding.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and business organizations have introduced examples of work style reform efforts on their websites. Businesses are called on to share the examples and make use of them in carrying out work style reforms.

Looking ahead to an era of 100-year life, it is necessary to create an environment in which it is easier to try new jobs. Efforts must be made to further expand the opportunities for vocational training and relearning at universities and vocational schools.

When it comes to work style reforms, it is also indispensable to eliminate unreasonable gaps in the treatment of regular and nonregular employees.

Nonregular employees account for about 40 percent of all workers and their wages are set at low levels. An equal-pay-for-equal-work system will be introduced sequentially from next fiscal year. Labor and management are called on to hold consultative talks repeatedly to make it possible for wages to be paid in accordance with the work done.

It is advisable to expand assistance for transferring from nonregular to regular workers. Creating a situation in which members of the working-age population are able to work with hope and motivation will likely lead to wiping away their anxiety about the future.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 19, 2019)Speech



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