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Japan may ban manufacturers from hiring
temporary workers according to Akira Nagatsuma, the country's health and labor
minister. The new prime minister, Yukio
Hatoyama, made this a campaign plead to shift employment to full time. The government is preparing legislation "that
will stop manufacturing firms from employing temps and encourage them to hire
full-timers" according to Mr. Nagatsuma.
Japanese companies have cut jobs to remain profitable. Companies have started replacing retirees
with temporary workers after deregulation in 2004, creating a two-tiered labor
market in which mostly younger workers have less security and fewer
benefits. The improvement in the labor
market has not convinced the government that jobs are secure. Younger workers are not reaping the benefits
of the improved labor market. The
proportion of college students with job offers tumbled 7.4 percentage points
from a year earlier. The ruling
Democratic Party criticized the former government's policy of letting companies
hire temporary workers to adjust payroll size in line with production, and
during the election pledged to end it.
"Japan May Limit Hiring of Temporary
Workers," New York Times, 12/7/09.
The European Commission is criticizing the government of the United Kingdom for failing to protect citizens’ privacy. It says that the government should have done more to guarantee online privacy when trials of a controversial ad-serving system were carried out in 2006. The Commission had started legal action against the UK following the trials of the Phorm ad-serving system on British Telecom’s network in 2006 and 2007. The government said it was happy with the way the trials went while critics said that BT’s customers were unwittingly enrolled and should have been allowed to opt out. The EU said that UK laws, especially The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, did not do enough to protect data about e-mails and web browsing habits of citizens. The Commission has sent a letter containing its opinion to the UK and the UK has two months to respond. If the Commission is unsatisfied with the response it could take the case to an EU court and perhaps force a change in the law in the UK.
Phorm, known as Webwise, profiles users’ browsing habits and serves up ads based on which sites they visit. It has been controversial because it has been accused of violating the EU restrictions on data privacy. The legal fight was initiated after complaints were made to the EU over how the service was tested on the BT broadband network. The technology used by Phorm is called DPI Deep Packet Inspection, aka Deep Privacy Invasion, and according to p2pnet, “its use as a means of mining private and personal online data now comprises a major threat around the world.”
“Britain in trouble over Phorm…,” p2pnet.net, 11/3/2009; “Brussels criticizes UK on privacy,” BBCNews, 11/2/2009.
The suicide of Jean-Paul Rouannet, a longtime employee of France Telecom, grabbed international headlines because he was the 24th employee of the French telecommunications company to commit suicide since February 2008. He left behind a note blaming stress at the workplace for his suicide. Other France Telecom employees who committed suicide have left similar suicide notes. While some suicide experts have said that the number of suicides at the company is not statistically aberrant and is in fact slightly less than France’s national suicide rate of 26.4 suicides per 100,000 people, it is in fact not a record for this company. In 2002 29 France Telecom employees reportedly killed themselves. The problem is that these suicides are happening within one organization and that the reasons given for the suicides are remarkably consistent—most said they could not longer handle the pressure and stress of the workplace.
The company has been undergoing a massive restructuring project as it moves to compete with wireless and Internet communications companies in France and Western Europe. Until the 1990s the company was state-owned and had a virtual monopoly on the French communications system. The result of the restructuring is that many workers who had held jobs such as phone line installation and business service representatives have been reassigned to high-pressure call centers where they are expected to answer customers inquires and sell additional services simultaneously. Following Rouannet’s suicide, the Chairman of the Board and CEO Didier Lombard has been roundly criticized by politicians and union leaders with many calling for his resignation.
As a result of the suicides, the French Labor Minister has ordered all French employers with at least 1,000 workers to draw up anti-stress plans based on discussions with employee representatives. They must report to the Labor Ministry on their new plans by February 1, 2010.
“Restructuring, High-Pressure Tactics Pushing French Telecom Workers to Suicide,” SHRM Online, 10/1/09.
South Korea is struggling to embrace the new reality as the number of foreign residents has doubled while the population of Southern Koreans is dropping sharply. Until recently, South Korea was a country in which people were taught to take pride in their nation’s “ethnic homogeneity” and where the words “skin color” and “peach” are synonymous. As a result, Korean women who dated or even traveled in the company of a foreign man were subject to racial and sexist slurs. However, in a recent case where an Indian man, Bonogit Hussain, traveling with a female Korean friend, Hahn Ji-seon, was subjected to slurs, South Korean prosecutors charged the man who issued the slurs with contempt. This was the first time that such charges have been applied to an alleged racist offense. While the case is pending, rival political parties in Parliament have begun drafting legislation which would for the first time provide a detailed definition of discrimination by race and ethnicity and would impose criminal penalties. The Foreign Ministry supports an anti-discrimination law. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommended that South Korea adopt such a law, deploring the widespread use of terms such as “pure blood” and “mixed blood.” At a recent forum to discuss proposed legislation critics charged that such a law would only encourage even more migrant workers to come to South Korea, pushing native workers out of jobs and creating crime-infested slums.
“South Koreans Struggle With Race,” New York Times, 11/2/09.