After limited success in convincing companies to raise wages, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has turned to improving the treatment of the nation’s legion of temporary employees, who make up more than a third of the workforce.
Full-time "non-regular" workers earn more than a third less than their permanent counterparts, often for doing the same work, while the pay gap in hourly wages for part-timers is even bigger. Non-regular employees also receive far fewer benefits. Abe plans to fix those inequities by requiring companies to treat non-regular workers as well as permanent employees.
Draft guidelines for revising labor laws that were released in December call for "equal pay for equal work,” including comparable bonuses. They also say employers should also offer non-regular workers benefits ranging from a commuting allowance to bereavement leave--benefits more frequently offered to permanent employees.
Stagnant wages have hobbled Abe’s efforts to revive Japan’s economy, weighing on consumer spending. Many economists have urged Japan to overhaul the labor market, which provides strong employment protection for permanent workers, but Abe has shown no inclination to seek such deep and politically costly changes.