Vol.35-No.01 January 1,1996
The Research and Study Group on Working Conditions(Head: Prof. Kazuyoshi Koshiro of Yokohama National University), a private advisory panel to the Director General of the Labour Standards Bureau, the Ministry of Labour, has worked out a report which recommends how labor administration organs should respond in future years to such employment condition issues, as clarification of the labor contract and the need for a labor-dispute handling system. In the report, the panel points out that with the changing socioeconomic situation, there have emerged moves toward merit- and performance-based personnel management systems, diverse attitudes toward work and the flexible labor market, thus creating new tasks for employment conditions. These tasks incorporate such common problems as clarification of employment conditions and the need to support counseling for individual grievances and disputes, the panel points out.
To cope in a concrete manner with these issues, labor administrative organs should clarify employment relations for workers under a new form, such as workers employed on an annual pay basis, and examine establishing a system for settling through a third party organ those individual complaints and labor disputes involving working conditions which are predicted to increase in growing numbers in the years to come, the report recommends.
In view of the contents of the report, the Ministry of Labour will continue to study concrete measures to be taken in coming months. Already, it has set forth specific steps to be taken based upon some of the recommendations of the report. For example, the Ministry is planning to post legal experts responsible for individual-level complaints and disputes involving decisions on employment conditions and matters of employment at labor standards bureaus, to carry out counseling and to provide support duties. Those responsible for counseling will be called "working-conditions counselors" and will mediate individuals' disputes over employment conditions and offer counseling to them. The Ministry will select and commission "counselors" from among those with legal knowledge of civil affairs who have served as administrative officials at courts and will post a total of six "special counselors" on an experimental basis, two each, at labour standards bureaus in three prefectures, Tokyo, Aichi and Osaka.
This system is the first-ever to handle individual disputes between workers and corporations. "Employment-condition counselors" will not have authority to issue orders with binding legal force.
On October 25, the Ministry of Labour decided not to allow corporations to "recruit women only" when they employ staff. The Ministry will instruct them to put the new decision into practice in recruitment plans for fiscal 1996. It will include the directive which prohibits "hiring of women only allowed" in a circular notice on interpretation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law(EEOL) and will let directors of Prefectural Women's and Minors' Office in all prefectures know the new addition in November 1995. In addition, the Ministry is studying how to incorporate the new directive in the EEOL in years ahead.
"Hiring of women only" has been permitted over the past 10 years following enforcement of the EEOL. "Recruitment and hiring of men only" means preferential treatment of males and runs counter to the Law since it restricts job fields for women, but "hiring of women only" has been considered as a preferential measure to expand job areas for women, thus posing no legal problem. After the EEOL went into effect, an increasing number of companies introduced two-track personnel administration systems under which they recruit new employees by grouping into two categories, sogoshoku, or those in positions with promotional opportunities to managerial and executive levels, who are in charge of core jobs; and ippanshoku, or those in positions with limited promotion opportunities and pay hikes, who are responsible for jobs of an auxiliary nature. In actuality, however, almost all the enterprises recruit men alone for most of the sogoshoku and women only for ippanshoku. The fact that firms curb hiring of ippanshoku women, it is also pointed out, is responsible for females' having difficulty in landing jobs in recent years.
In consideration of this situation, the Ministry of Labour asked the Study Group Concerning Issues of Equal Employment Opportunities for Men and Women (Head: Hidenobu Yasueda, Professor of Doshisha University) to conduct a survey on the realities of the dual-path system. The Study Group compiled a report in which it says that "hiring of women only" does not prove useful in expanding job areas for women. Thus, corporations which adopt the two-track system will be under pressure to change their personnel administration practices. They will be asked to do the following. First, to recruit and hire ippanshoku regardless of sex as well as sogoshoku and to inaugurate area for male ippanshoku which was non-existent before. Second, to employ college and university graduates through abolishing grouping of sogoshoku and ippanshoku and change the hiring system so as to group them into a course that suits their adaptability a few years later.
The new decision will likely pressure companies to alter their personnel policy, for example by launching of "male ippanshoku," affecting college and university graduates' job-hunting activity.
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