Resolution Requesting to Break the Chain of Poverty and Establish a Right for All People to Work and Live as Dignified Human Beings
There has been a surge in the numbers of the working poor who are unable to earn enough to enjoy a decent standard of living even though they are working. Over 10 million workers in private companies earn 2 million yen or less annually.
A major reason why the working poor are increasing is that the State has been promoting the relaxation of various regulations in the labor field under the restructuring policies and restraining social security expenses even though the social security system is already vulnerable.
Regulations in the labor field have been repeatedly relaxed and full-time employees have been drastically replaced with irregular employees to reduce labor costs and so the number of employees could be easily adjusted. As a result, there are now 18.9 million irregular employees, a record-high 35.5% of all workers. As the number of irregular workers increases, illegal practices, including disguised contract labor and outstanding payments for overtime work, as well as unstable employment and low-wage jobs are also increasing. Those who do not have an opportunity to receive education and training, especially young people, are fixed in poverty. The standards of wages for full-time workers are also dropping and they need to work for longer periods of time. The social security system which is expected to support people’s lives does not sufficiently function due to continuous increases of out-of-pocket expenses and deductions of benefits. Therefore, once people’s income is reduced or they lose their jobs, they are unable to receive enough support from the social security system. Consequently, they will lose their savings, families, houses, and health one after another. Such situations replicate and enhance poverty from one generation to another, and the so-called “Chain of Poverty” has been created.
However, the status quo of this kind of work and poverty infringes the inherent human rights which all people posses from birth and we cannot ignore this situation.
The right to work humanely with fair and good labor conditions is guaranteed to all people by Article 13 of the Constitution of Japan (the Constitution) which requests that supreme respect be given to the right to pursue happiness based on the principle of respect for individuals, Article 14 which stipulates equality under the law, and Article 27 which guarantees the right to work. Furthermore, as Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured life, the central and local governments have the responsibility to break the chain of poverty and ensure that all people enjoy the right to work and live as dignified human beings.
Therefore, in order to realize conditions for working and living in a dignified manner, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations urges the State, local governments, and employers to undertake the following measures:
- In order to stop the increase of irregular workers and alleviate the working poor, the state should fundamentally review labor legislation and policies in line with the principle that an employer should employ people on a full-time basis unless there is a legitimate reason to employ them on an irregular basis including a definite term contract.
Especially, the legislation on dispatching workers should be fundamentally revised to abolish the dispatch of daily workers, cap the margin rate of labor dispatching service fees, limit the scope of work to specialist areas for which workers may be dispatched, and abolish worker dispatch undertakings where workers register with dispatching agencies and enter into an employment contract only when they are dispatched.
- The state should amend the Labor Contract Law to enact equal labor conditions, including wages, for the same or similar work despite employment status.
- The state should take measures to drastically raise the minimum wage to an amount which enables all people to live with dignity.
- In order to eradicate illegal conduct, including disguised contract labor and outstanding payments for overtime work, the state should reinforce the system to supervise and detect such illegal conduct and should undertake effective measures to ensure that employers comply with current labor laws.
- The State and local governments should reform the policy restraining social security expenses, drastically improve the social security system to ensure that the working poor are not excluded from receiving social insurance and using the public assistance system, and establish effective and easily accessible professional education and training systems.
- Employers should fulfill their social responsibilities by complying with labor laws as well as reviewing how personnel should be employed to ensure that all workers work and live with dignity.
The JFBA recognizes that it is essential to tackle the issues facing people’s livelihoods such as labor problems and welfare benefits in an integrated way in order to stop the expansion of the poverty and will strive to ensure that all people, including irregular workers, enjoy the right to work and live as dignified human beings.
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
October 3, 2008, at the JFBA Convention on
Protection of Human Rights