4        Realization of Meaningful,
      Secure Employment for Workers    

The incomes of Japanese workers are among the world's highest. In terms of quality of life, however, there continues to be a number of problems, including a low availability of housing facilities and space, long working hours and high living expenses. With the greater aging of the population, uncertainties have grown substantially, centering around livelihood in old age. Also, there are numerous problems to solve, including the widening of the welfare gap between larger and smaller business firms.
      To this end, in addition to moves to secure and improve working conditions, the Ministry of Labour, in its efforts to achieve a truly affluent and comfortable life for workers, has been striving to reduce working hours and promote leisure. In line with these policies, the Ministry is also implementing comprehensive welfare measures for workers, including the Workers' Property Accumulation Promotion System and the Small and Medium Enterprises' Retirement Allowance Mutual Aid System.

I. Measures to ensure reasonable working conditions and to improve working conditions

The basic mission of the labor standards administration is to promote a comfortable lifestyle in which workers can enjoy both good mental and physical health. To this end we have to maintain certain minimum working conditions and standards. In this context it is also important to make positive efforts in response to changes in social and economic conditions.
      To this end, we are providing supervision and guidance for firms to secure the working conditions prescribed in the laws and ordinances related to labor standards, including clear statements of working conditions, working hour management, and the establishing and reporting of office regulations, and health management.
      We accept reports and provide consultation on working conditions concerning dismissal and nonpayment, etc. When we find a problem, in terms of the laws and ordinances, related to labor standards, we attempt to promptly solve the problem in an appropriate way. Where there are no problems as such, in terms of the laws and ordinances related to labor standards, we provide information including descriptions of relevant precedents.
      The number of disputes between labor and management concerning working conditions, including personnel re-assignment and dismissal, has been on the increase, and simple and rapid procedures to settle such disputes are needed. In order to promote independent settlement between labor and management, the heads of the Prefectural Labour Standards Offices provide appropriate advice or guidance for rapid settlement when requested by the party concerned.
      The revised Labour Standards Law was passed during the 143rd Special Session of the National Diet in September 1998, and most provisions went into effect in April 1999. The aim of the law was to advance the improvement of working conditions and the working environment so that people would feel willing to work, and would do so without anxiety, while demonstrating their abilities to the full. We are providing information and guidance regarding the revised law and its related departmental ordinances for both labor and management.
      In addition to the Labour Standards Law, the laws concerning labor standards administration include the Industrial Safety and Health Law, the Pneumoconiosis Law, the Minimum Wages Law, the Industrial Homework Law, the Law concerning Security of Wages, etc., and the Worker's Accident Compensation Insurance Law. The Ministry of Labour has set up and operates a unified national body of organizations dealing with labor standards, including 47 prefectural Labour Standards Offices under the Labour Standards Bureau, as well as 343 Labour Standards Inspection Offices (and 4 branch offices) across the country.

Activities of the Labour Standards Inspection Office
  1. Supervision and guidance for firms
  2. Judicial action against serious or malicious violations of the labor laws
  3. Processing of applications for permission or approval and notices filed by employers, etc.
  4. Processing of reports, consultations, etc.
  5. Completion inspection of boilers, etc.
  6. Implementation of disaster surveys and statistical surveys
  7. Granting of benefits of the Workmen's Accident Compensation Insurance
  8. Basic surveys for the calculation of labor insurance premiums

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