Organized Panel Session
Studies on non-regular workers in Japan have shown how they suffer from low wages and limited benefits. Since 2016, the Abe administration has taken leadership in reforming the way Japanese work. In the context of serious labor shortage, the government has created special committees to review and revise labor laws to get more women and elders to work, and to raise labor productivity. This study examines the nature of Abe’s labor reform by focusing on one of the three main pillars of the reform bills that passed the Diet in June 2018, i.e. the Equal Pay for Equal Work legislation. When selling his labor reform initiative to the public, the prime minister has promised to allow non-regular workers to be hopeful for a better future by correcting the discriminatory treatment based on employment status. He claimed to restore the middle class by closing the wage gap between them and the regular workers. How the labor reform will improve the non-regular workers’ wellbeing, or possibly move them up the social ladder and join the ranks of the middle class, is yet to be determined. This presentation will critically assess the possibilities and limitations of Abe’s labor reform.