The Japan-EU Symposium with a theme of "The Changing Employment Environment-Flexibility of the Employment Environment" met in Shinjuku, Tokyo, on Oct. 14. The Symposium, held alternately each year in Tokyo and Brussels since 1990, featured reports and discussions particularly on employment systems.
Representing Japan as main reporters were Akira Takahashi, Research Director General of the Japan Institute of Labour, and Tadashi Hanami, professor of Sophia University. They remarked on the flexibility of Japan's long-term employment practices. They pointed out, for instance, that the number of new graduates who join the labor force and continue to work for the same company until they retire is not actually that great; that the merit-rating system is being married with pay based on seniority and that ressignments and temporary transfers to subsidiuaries and other related firms "make the company's internal labor market highly flexible."
The EU side, on the other hand, noted that Europe's employment system is becoming dilapidated and its labor market rigid, thus pointing out the need to formulate and implement job-creation measures, including improvement of the employment insurance program and establishment of education and training programs. Louis Fina Sanglas, Director General of the EU Commission on Employment and the Job Market, and Herman Van Zonneveld, chief of the section in charge of industrial relations and labor laws, served as main reporters from the EU side. In the discussions, however, the EU side noted that views and opinions are different between labor and management on flexible and resilient employment, suggesting difficulty in building a public consensus.
The Japan Institute of Labour (JIL) sponsored the third comparative labor law seminar in Tokyo on September 24. Six labor law professors from Europe and the United States participated in this two-session seminar along with some 20 Japanese attendants. Participants discussed the increasingly important topic of "Working Life and Family Life Policies for their Hamronization."
In the first session, the participants overviewed the "Present Schemes for Harmonizing Working Life and Family Life" in each country including equal employment opportunity laws, child and eldely care leave, method of assistance for flexible work styles such as part-time work, and day care facilities. The discussion revealed that there are notable differences in each country's policies for the harmonization of working life and family life. For example, some countries have already developed legislative or administrative schemes for caring for children and elderly family members, while other countries have not regulated such matters and have largely left them to private spheres or the free market.
The second session featured discussion of the "Analysis, Evaluation, and Future Prospects of Policies for Harmonizing Working Life and Family Life." The participants discussed from a comparative viewpoint the backgrounds of each country's policies such as labor market conditions and employment practices. The discussion also covered the role of the state or government in achieving harmonization. Despite the differences in policies and their background, it was generally agreed that harmonization of working life and family life is one of the most important issues both at present and in the future.
The national reporters were Professor Janice R. Bellace of the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Marco Biagi of the University of Modena, Professor Chris Engels of the Catholic University of Leuven, Professor Jean-Claude Javillier of the University Pantheon-Assas (Paris-II), Lecturer Michiyo Kurokawa of the University of Tokyo, Professor Alan Neal of the University of Leicester, and Professor Ann Numhauser-Henning of the University of Lund.
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