Japan’s freelance workforce is large and is beginning to organize. Japan has traditionally been a place where lifetime employment was the norm. The number of freelancers in Japan grew 23% between 2015 and 2018 – close to 3 million people work as freelancers and 7 million people with more than one job representing 11% of the workforce. Recently, 17 freelancers from the 15,000 estimated to be working for Uber Eats in Japan, the arm of US-based Uber – have formed a labor union and are starting to recruit. Freelancers in Japan are permitted to organize labor unions. Ironically, this was enshrined in the Japanese constitution written post World War II by the Americans.
Gig economy worker demands have resulted in some employer concessions
Uber Japan has not recognized the union officially. However, Uber Japan has started to introduce a compensation system for delivery drivers for injuries sustained while working. The maximum payment is only 250,000 JPY (2,300 USD), which affords less than a typical employee insurance policy would.
Japan’s government will take further action
Japan’s Ministry of Labor is considering new measures to protect gig economy workers, including ensuring they are paid on time. The Ministry has not yet decided on all the actions it may take and whether it will recommend legal reforms. Those reforms may include legislation in Japan’s Parliament, the Diet, aimed at protecting gig economy workers.
Foreign gig economy companies interested in Japan should seek local help
As Japan’s economy continues to move away from traditional work arrangements to flexible, gig-economy jobs, foreign companies that utilize any form of flexible workforce need to take heed. Importantly, those companies looking to expand into Japan must secure local help to navigate this new yet uncertain employment environment. A licensed Professional Employer Organizations (PEO) is ideally suited to help you establish and effectively navigate all aspects of the changing gig-economy landscape here. From establishing a presence in Japan to negotiating freelancer relationships, a licensed PEO is an efficient and effective means by which to safely grow your business here. Always be sure to confirm the PEO you use has the appropriate licenses as this is public information.