雇用者 - Employer or Employee?

Came across this word in my wanikani lessons and I am a bit confused.

雇用者, according to jisho.org, can mean both “employer” and “employee”. I’m used to a certain amount of ambiguity in Japanese, and also know that certain words in both English and Japanese can have opposite meanings (“やばい”, “sick”), but this word is a bit harder to wrap my brain around.

Can anyone explain how this word is used and how one would normally refer to “employer” and “employee” in Japanese without ambiguity?

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I actually remember someone asking about this in the short questions thread!
Maybe the resulting discussion can help some:

Looks like I found some alternatives, both ambiguous and unambiguous, via wikipedia:

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Thank you for the link! I see there is a large number of alternative terms, so presumably one of those will be used in situations where there is a need to distinguish between the two meanings.

I do still wonder whether 雇用者 is used as one of those Japanese words which describe both sides of something simultaneously, like 勝敗 or 諾否, or as two separate but opposite things? The example sentence on jisho seems to suggest the latter.

I wouldn’t describe it like 勝敗 or 諾否. I don’t believe 雇 and 用 are two sides of the same coin like that.
I think it’s just that 雇用者 is like saying “employment person” rather than employee or employer. Like, syntactically it just happens to not be inherently directional.
I bet if I thought about it for a long time I could come up with a similar example in English where we don’t think of it as unusual…
I could of course be wrong though!

I see, thank you for your input! I guess maybe “spouse” would be an example of such a word?

This labor policy website has a jargon page and they define 雇用者 as employee or high level official in an organization.

https://www.jil.go.jp/kokunai/statistics/yougo/d07.html

A native I asked also did not hesitate to say employee. Seems like the ambiguity might exist on the dictionary page, but not in the way people use the word.

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That’s interesting. Jisho also has it as the first definition, whereas Wanikani is the only source which has “employer” as primary meaning.

Thanks for looking it up!

To be fair, there’s always a chance that the two things I mentioned are just one piece of the situation. Maybe the labor site is just defining things to tell you how they use them, not how they are used generally. I’m not entirely sure of that. Maybe the native is just… not so worldly.

I guess it never hurts to double check if you encounter it.

I was thinking maybe more something like “actor” - actor might mean anyone who acts, or it might mean specifically a male actor, depending on if the person talking is also going to use “actress” or not.

To me that’s what the Wikipedia article makes it sound like -
両方の意味で使われる言葉として雇用者 ← mentioning it on its own as an example that could be used for either employer or employee,
雇用者・雇用主のペア ← using it as the opposite of 雇用主 (unambiguously employer) to mean “employee” specifically

雇用者 is probably mainly used to mean “employee” but formally it’s not definitely that side of the coin the way 雇用主 definitely means employer - in perhaps the same way “actor” is sometimes gendered but isn’t definitely gendered the way actress is.
… if that comparison makes sense anyway.

I would speculate it might come across as less weird in dictionaries if English had a word for a nonspecific party in an employee/employer relationship. Then, perhaps, the dictionary definitions would read “the specific word + the general word” rather than “specific word X + opposite word Y”

EDIT: on the other hand, Weblio gives:

こよう‐しゃ【雇用者】
1 労働者を雇っている個人や企業などの組織。使用者2のこと。雇用主。
2 企業・団体・個人事業主などに雇われている人。被雇用者。被用者。

Which seems like pretty much just “1. Employer 2. Employee” to me. So… there’s that.
Likely ultimately it has to do with the Chinese roots of the compoud as Jonapedia talked about in the thread I linked:

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