On 17 April, RENGO organised a symposium entitled “Reconsider Working Hour Regulations” in Tokyo. RENGO General Secretary Koga emphasized: “The highest priority should be given to rectifying long working hours. Concrete policy recommendations are needed to realize work-life balance”. The symposium, composed of a lecture, reports on activities and a panel discussion, was attended by about 150 participants from RENGO’s affiliates and local RENGOs.
Working hours in Japan are bipolarized between “long” and “short”. One forth of men in their 30s works more than 60 hours a week. Less than 50% of paid holidays are taken and the rate is even getting less and less. On one side, many of workers ruin their health both physically and mentally, as the problem of mental health is getting more serious and cases of karoshi (death from overwork) or suicide caused by overwork are increasing. On the other, many of women are forced to choose working or having/rearing a baby because they find it difficult to reconcile work and life.
Under the circumstance that harmful effects of long working hours have become obvious as described above, the Subcommittee on Working Hours started a debate on the review of working hour regulations. However, the focus is on “autonomous working arrangements”, in particular on white-collar exemption that exempts white-collar workers from working hour regulations enshrined in the Labour Standards Act. We definitely condemn such regulations.
Working too long or letting work too long has now come into question. Why should white-collar workers be exempted from being protected? Will they be freer and more likely to be able to reconcile work and life if they are not protected by working hour regulations? Why to expand the scope of workers who are exempted from working hour regulations?
What we should challenge is to rectify long working hours, to rethink working hours from the viewpoint of health, family life, relations with the community where we live and self-enlightenment, and to look at what working hours should be in the light of work-life balance.
To reconsider working hour regulations is crucial to all working men and women. We must listen to voices of all working colleagues over the nation decidedly. We will make the symposium a turning point and start every possible effort at all workplaces to block the introduction of the white-collar exemption and to realize genuine working hour regulations that protect our lives and health.
17 April 2006
RENGO Symposium “Reconsider Working Hour Regulations”