Japanese News: the discretionary labour system

The last two articles I have studied were about sports, so I thought that it was time to return to more political subjects. As a consequence, even if I was tempted to study an article about the Tokyo Olympic mascots that have just been unveiled, I focused myself on another topical issue: the discretionary labour system that should have been part of Abe’s labour reform.

The context:

An important element of Abe’s labour reform was to expand the “discretionary labour system”, or in Japanese 裁量労働制・さいりょうろうどうせい. If you are unfamiliar with this system, (as I was before starting this post), you can have a look at this Japan Times article in English. To summarise, according to this system, the employer and the employee agree to a certain amount of working hours per day, and the employee will be paid according to this agreement, no matter if he worked more or less than what had been decided.

To justify the necessity to expand this system, the government has used a survey provided by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. The problem is that this survey proved to be full of mistakes, a fact that, of course, sparked criticism among the opposition and the public opinion. As a result, Abe expressed his intention to not include the expansion of the “discretionary labour system” in his labour reform. And this is what our article is about.

Article on NHK:「裁量労働制の拡大」法案に盛り込まない意向首相

I think that we come against three difficulties when we read such articles:

  1. The context.
  2. The vocabulary
  3. The grammar

We already have been through the context, so let’s have a look at the vocabulary:

  • 裁量労働制・さいりょうろうどうせい: Discretionary labour system
    • 裁量・さいりょう: discretion, judgment.
  • 法案・ほうあん: bill, measure.
  • 盛り込む・もりこむ: incorporate, include (seems very formal).
  • 働き方改革関連法案: lit. The bill concerning the reform for workers… or simply: a draft bill for labour reforms.
    • 改革・かいかく: reform
  • 厚生労働省・こうせいろうどうしょう: Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. I am glad I added it to my Anki some days ago.
  • 審議・しんぎ: deliberation, consideration, discussion
  • 撤回・てっかい: withdrawal, retraction, revocation
  • ずさんな: careless, inaccurate, faulty.

There are other difficult words in the text, but these are the ones I want to remember passively because they might be useful to read other similar articles.

It is also essential to recognise groups of words that appear often. For example “裁量労働制” may first look like a group of difficult kanji but once we understand that it refers to the so-called “discretionary labour system”, things become more comfortable.

We can even go further and recognise that the group “裁量労働制の適用業務の拡大” often appear as such. If we can tell ourselves “ah, this refers to the expansion of the application of this system” when we see this group of kanji, then we can read the sentence or the paragraph smoothly.

Instead of just processing the meaning of each word we see, one after the other, trying to isolate groups of words helps to read the news.

And finally, the grammar… Strangely, it is not as much the N2 grammar points that I find difficult than the supposedly easy grammar like は and の. There is sometimes a confusing succession of these particles in very long sentences where the verb can be very far from its subject.

To conclude, I would say that isolating groups of words has helped me to read this article and is the most important lesson to be remembered from this “read the news in Japanese” study session. If I had to be completely honest, I would add that I also learnt some English words through today’s post:

Japanese News - the discretionary labour system2

My English notebook

Réforme du travail: labour reform

Bill: “a written suggestion for a new law that is presented to a country’s parliament so that its members can discuss it” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary).

to spark: “spark criticism”, “spark a storm of protest.”

A document that contains error can be described as “flawed survey”, “flawed data”.