Japan has seen a strong rise in non-regular employment. A fundamental dualism in the labour market makes that these workers offer important cost advantages while also creating a rich supply of potential workers. It has raised serious concerns about the fairness of employment practices and the commitment and expertise of employees. The rise in non-regular employment also poses a serious challenge to the unions. Japanese unionism, with its predominance of enterprise unions, has complemented labour market dualism, with membership limited to regular employees. However, unions in industries like retail have started to organise part-time workers in particular. This paper analyses this development by drawing on labour market statistics and interviews with union representatives. Unions have participated in the development of new personnel systems that include non-regular workers in the belief that only the explicit recognition of their skills and contribution can improve working conditions. This development is illustrated by a case-study of a major supermarket chain which has introduced new career courses and job grades for non-regular workers, with training as a necessary complement to develop and define a person’s ability. These developments are not without challenges. The findings illustrate the representative conflict when organising both regular and non-regular employees. In accordance, recent developments have hardly diminished the cost advantages offered by the latter. The strategies also legitimise the rise in non-regular employment and may contribute to the long-term decline in working conditions. At the same time, the inclusion of non-regular employees as union members unites groups that are otherwise separated in the Japanese labour market and puts unions in a unique position to address the dualism by arguing for greater equality.
|Title of host publication
|Published - Jul 2011
|32nd Conference International Working Party on Labour Market Segmentation - University of Bamberg
Duration: 1 Jan 1824 → …
|32nd Conference International Working Party on Labour Market Segmentation
|University of Bamberg
|1/01/24 → …