Japan Data

Labor Union Participation in Japan Increases Slightly to 17.1%


Worsened business conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to an increase in union membership in Japan.

A basic survey on labor unions in 2020 conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare shows the provisional result that 17.1% of the overall Japanese workforce was organized within labor unions as of June 30, a year-on-year increase of 0.4 points.

This marks the first increase since 2009, and follows eight years in which the percentage of labor-union membership had set a new record low. It seems to be due to the rise in nonregular workers joining unions as employment opportunities diminish due to the worsening of business conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The combined number of regular and nonregular employees totaled 59.29 million, a decrease of 940,000, or 1.6%, compared to the previous year, marking the first decline in 10 years. Despite that drop, the number of workers in unions rose by 28,000, or 0.3%, to a total of 10.12 million. Among unionized workers, part-time employees rose by 42,000, or 3.1%, to 1.38 million in total.

The number of part-time labor union members was a record high in 2020, and the proportion of part-timers to all unionized workers rose by 0.4 percentage points to 13.7%. The unionized rate among part-time workers is 8.7%. The number of labor unions in Japan decreased by 296 last year, to 23,761 in total.

By industry, the largest number of union members, at 2.67 million, were in the manufacturing industry, accounting for nearly 30% of all union members; followed by the wholesale and retail sector at 1.49 million, the transport and delivery industry at 848,000, and the construction industry at 836,000.

Year-on-year growth in union membership was particularly noticeable in the hospitality and dining sector, increasing by 4.4%, and in the wholesale and retail sector, where membership rose by 2.0%. Factors accounting for the increase include the relatively large proportion of part-time workers and the considerable impact of the pandemic on those sectors.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Enthusiastic participants in the 2018 May Day rally at Yoyogi Park organized by the National Confederation of Trade Unions. © Jiji.)

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