Japanese Part-Time Women Workers Have Had Enough

   < < Go Back

By Jason Clenfield,

from Bloomberg Businessweek,

Miho Marui

Miho Marui isn’t exactly sure how she wound up standing on top of a bus on a wintry Tokyo day in 2009, staring up at the 35-story headquarters of KDDI (9433:JP). Yet there she was, hands trembling as she shouted at her bosses through a loudspeaker. Co-workers pressed against the windows to watch her pick a fight with Japan’s second-largest phone company over labor practices at one of its subsidiaries. “I guess I was just mad,” says Marui, a trained marine biologist and University of Tokyo graduate, who together with a friend started Japan’s first union for temporary and part-time workers. Marui has drawn unflattering attention to the treatment of the country’s mostly female temporary labor force. In April a Tokyo court recommended a settlement for a wage-discrimination lawsuit she and others filed in late 2010 against the subsidiary, KDDI Evolva.

In the U.S., the inequality debate has focused on the wealth gap between the richest 1 percent and everyone else. In Japan, the lines are drawn between those with full-time jobs and an estimated 20 million temporary workers.

More From Bloomberg Businessweek: