Spouse allowance system should not hinder women’s willingness to work

April 26, 201610:27 am251 views

It is important to ensure the current wage systems adopted by corporations are adjusted so that highly motivated people can bring their abilities into full play, amid a contraction of the working population.

A study panel at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has put together a report stating that it is desirable to reconsider the spouse allowance schemes in place at 70 percent of companies. Most of these systems have eligibility limits regarding the income earned by workers’ spouses. Therefore, a noticeable number of housewives and others who have part-time jobs try to limit their own work so their income will fall within the limits set by their spouses’ employers.

As a consequence of this working-hour adjustment by part-timers, regular employees must assume even greater workloads during busy periods at not a few workplaces. There is also criticism that the presence of workers negative about an increase in their own income has the effect of pushing down wage levels of part-time workers as a whole.

Stating that the spouse allowance is a factor behind spouses restricting their own work, the latest report calls for a reconsideration of the current systems to make them neutral toward how spouses work. The proposal can be viewed as an attempt to start discussions from the standpoint of promoting the dynamic engagement of women in society.

The spouse allowance was established during the nation’s period of rapid economic growth, when it was taken for granted that men’s duty was to work outside the home while that of women was to do household chores and raise children. There is no doubt that the spouse allowance played a certain role in stabilizing household budgets and promoting economic growth.

Times have changed

However, social circumstances have greatly changed. In most families today, men and women both work. The percentage of both men and women who remain unmarried throughout life has greatly increased.

Partly due to an increasing number of non-regular workers, male permanent employees who are married — the main recipients covered by the spouse allowance scheme — only account for 30 percent of the working population now.

There is no denying that the current system fits neither the needs of employees nor workers’ sense of fairness.

There has been an increase in the number of corporations reconsidering their spouse allowances. Measures taken in this respect include abolishing these benefits and instead designating the money involved as part of workers’ basic wages. Another step is to increase child-support and other allowances by the amount of reductions in workers’ salaries due to the abolition of spouse allowances. It is said that these measures have produced good results in some cases, including an improvement in the motivation of younger employees.

The report said that keys to success in smoothly reworking the spouse allowance scheme include confirming the wishes of employees and endeavoring to gain their understanding. It also said that these steps need to be combined with efforts to maintain the total amount of wages paid to each worker and the adoption of interim measures intended for employees whose wages would be curtailed.

Needless to say, in determining what the appropriate wage payments should be, including spouse allowances, a decision must be made on the basis of labor-management negotiations and a consensus to be reached through that effort. The corporate personnel structure and business environment vary from company to company. Sincere talks between labor and management will be required.

It is important not to forget that an even greater factor keeping women from working is the presence of problems in the tax and social insurance systems, including the so-called “¥1.03 million wall” and “¥1.3 million wall.”

In many cases, corporations use these figures to set income limits in connection with their spouse allowance payments, which has posed an even greater hindrance.

We hope that the government and the ruling parties will promote full discussions on these pertinent issues, given that the spouse allowance problem can greatly affect the family budget and attracts a good deal of attention.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun)

news source: the-japan-news.com

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