Comment on government e2020 Basic Survey of Japanese Trade Unionsf
National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
December 18, 2020
The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare released the results of its annual “Basic Survey of Trade Unions” for 2020 on December 16. The number of workers who are union members stood at 10,115,000. That’s up 28,000 or 0.3 percent from the previous year. Union membership fell below 10 million in 2011 and continued to decrease until it increased in 2015. The number has since continued to increase for six straight years. The estimated ratio of union members to the total number of employed workers was 17.1 percent, up 0.4 percentage points from the previous year. One main factor of the increase in union membership was an increase of 50,000 members among women workers, and an increase of 42,000 among part-time workers. There are 1,375,000 part-time workers who are union members, accounting for 13.7 percent of the total number of unionized workers. That’s up 0.4 points from the previous year. Still, the estimated organization rate remained as low as 12.8 percent among women workers and 8.7 percent among part-time workers.
Manufacturing sector had a union membership of 2,674,000, the highest among all industries, followed by the wholesale and retail industry at 1,494,000, and transportation and the postal service at 848,000. The membership in the wholesale and retail industry increased by 29,000, followed by hotel and food service (14,000) and manufacturing (12,000). The union membership fell by 15,000 in the public sector and 10,000 in the education-related industry. In the private sector, union membership rates at business firms with more than 1,000 employees stood at 41.8 percent, followed by firms with 100-99 employees at 11.3 percent, and firms with fewer than 99 employees at just 0.9 percent.
With no end to the pandemic in sight, the number of companies going bankrupt or closing business is rising. This is a matter of grave concern as the employment at small- and medium-sized companies are impacted. Many of contingent workers, including part-timers, are forced to work at low wages comparable to regional minimum wages. Any change in the terms of employment disadvantage to employees, including unilateral termination of employment, change in work shifts or contracts and pay cuts, can directly lead to acute distress. It is an urgent task of our movement to organize employed workers working at small- and medium-sized companies, who account for nearly half (44.5 percent) of all employed workers, and contingent workers and female workers.
As for changes in membership by national confederation, Zenroren’s membership stood at 738,000, which included members without affiliation to national industrial federation, down 17,000 from the previous year. The Japanese Trade Union Confederation (JTUC-Rengo) had 7,020,000 members, up 29,000 from the previous year. The National Trade Union Council (Zenrokyo) had a membership of 100,000, down 4,000 from the previous year. But Zenroren actually had a membership of 994,000 as of the end of June 2020, including Japan Pensioners’ Union members, according to our own survey.
Zenroren at its 30th Regular Convention approved a new 4-year membership expansion plan. Aiming to add 150,000 new members each year, Zenroren’s organizing effort is now underway throughout the country. We are focusing on a membership drive in the workplace and dialogues with workers calling on them to join the union while linking the membership drive to the realization of demands of all workers, including contingent workers, young workers, and women workers. We are determined to do all that we can to achieve a 1.5 million-strong Zenroren.