Shii: Amount of overtime per worker in Japan 8 times more than in Netherlands

February 21, 2015

Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo pointed out on February 20 that Japanese workers work overtime eight times more than Netherlanders do, urging the government to tighten regulations on overtime.

In a Lower House Budget Committee meeting, Shii pointed to the fact that the annual average of the number of overtime hours worked by Japanese workers is 182 hours, while it is 53 hours in Germany and only 22 hours in the Netherlands. Workers in Japan are said to work another 300 hours without pay, he added.

Shii noted that such excessive long overtime work is attributed to Japan’s labor legislation which imposes no limits on overtime.

Article 36 of the Labor Standards Act allows employers to conclude labor agreements to have employees work over the legal working hours. The labor minister’s notification stipulates that overtime work should be limited to 15 hours a week and 45 hours a month, but it has no binding power. Furthermore, employers are permitted to use employees with no time restriction under “special circumstances”.

Shii cited the labor-management pact at 35 corporations whose top executives serve as officers in Japan’s two major business circles, the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) and the Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai). According to Shii, the agreed upper “limit” on overtime hours at 33 companies is set at more than 45 hours a month. At 28 corporations, the limit exceeds 80 hours a month, the ministry-set level which may lead to death from overwork (karoshi).

Referring to the fact that the number of workers who died or committed suicide from overwork sharply increased from 52 in fiscal 1998 to 196 in fiscal 2013, Shii pushed for giving the minister’s notice legal force.

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo just replied, “I want to consider this carefully and cautiously.”

The JCP chair condemned the Abe administration for planning to submit to the Diet a bill to legalize unpaid overtime. “Such a working system will inevitably drive even more workers into karoshi,” he stressed.


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