Are RENGO And The Japanese Government Sending More People To Their Death With New Overtime Law Proposals?

At first glance, the title of this article may seem sensationalist; but when you look at the new overtime law proposals that have been cooked up between the government, the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), and RENGO (Japan’s most pro-company union federation) you have to wonder if such a claim is really all that hyperbolic.

Like so many laws that aim to “improve” things for workers, these proposals would codify levels of overtime that are already known to cause serious health problems and - in many cases - death.

Current overtime rules state that overtime must be limited to:

  • 5 hours per day
  • 45 hours per month
  • 360 hours per year

The new proposal is ostensibly to limit overtime to 45 hours a month or 360 hours a year - that's just short of 2 hours per day. Add in commuting time, and that’s already still a long day.  

If you read more closely, however, you might notice the use of the term “in principle”. Namely: the 45 hours limit overtime limit is “in principle”. The meaning of this varies on the situation; but, in this case, the proposal is to allow 100 hours of overtime PER MONTH for 6 months a year. That is quite the zinger when compared to current laws!

Far from helping to reduce overtime, this latest proposal will in fact legalise overtime levels that have been technically illegal up until now. Workers will be worse off than ever as - at least in the past - when pushed to the limits, workers could seek relief. Now, they will be left to fend for themselves without the law for support.

RENGO, the Trade Union Federation, should be embarrassed that they have capitulated to the wants of management, with little consideration for workers, or their members.  Both unions and workers need to stand together to fight these proposals, not collude to see them set in stone.

The labor ministry has said that 80 hours per month overtime is the "karōshi line". Over this, a worker’s life is in serious danger. Perhaps the title of this article is not an exaggeration at all.






footer f footer h footer m footer s

Additional information