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Women 2000, Japan NGO Alternative Report
by Japan NGO Report Preparatory Committee, 1999.08.13
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F. Women and Economy

1. Ensuring equal opportunity and treatment in employment.

(1)Amendment to the Equal Employment Opportunity Law

a)Strengthening the Equal Employment Opportunity Law

  1. Prohibition of discrimination against women in recruitment, hiring, assignment and promotion.
  2. Strengthening measures to ensure the effectiveness of the Law.
  3. Establishment of regulation to promote positive action.
  4. Establishment of regulations to prevent sexual harassment in the work place.
  5. Mandatory maternal health care.

b)Revision of Labor Standards Law.

  1. Abolition of restrictions on overtime work, holiday work, or night work by women.

c) Establishment of measure to restrict night work by employees taking care of children or other family members (revision of The Child Care and Family Care Leave Law)

(2)Ratifying the ILO 156 Convention. (A convention regarding the equal opportunity and treatment of women and men with family responsibilities )

(3)Establishing an environment that allows workers to continue working while taking care of children or family members.

1) Enhancing the conditions for worker's taking care of children and other family members.

a)Revision of the Child Care Leave Law

b)Establishment of the Child Care Leave benefits and family care leave benefits.

(4)Promoting measures for part-time work.

(5)Improving the economic status of women in rural communities.

(6)Support for women entrepreneurs.

(7)Measurement and valuation of unpaid work, and its reflection on policies.

(8)Action to remove wage gap between women and men.

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1. Ensuring equal opportunity and treatment in employment.

      Right now the Japanese economy is facing a serious and critical condition. We are having severe personal reduction and stepping up rationalization of management. Even in big companies, which have ensured life time employment, encourage early retirement of employee's in their forties and fifties and also transfer whole sections to separate company so they cut wages and transfer regular employees into a temporary work company. Therefor the unemployment rate exceeded 5 percent. Women students are having difficulty finding employment except side work or temporary work. They very easily stop hiring part-time workers. Industries claim they are over staffed, but an actuality the yearly working hours in Japan is from 300 hours to 400 hours longer than in Europe. When we think about "Women and Economy," the most important thing is to assure the right of work for women.

      How to break down this situation, which is the difficulty of finding a Job or of getting only disadvantageous work because of being a woman, is the problem to be solved.

      However, the Japanese Government revised the Labor Standards Law, Equal Employment Opportunity Law and Law for Dispatched Workers (Temporary Workers Law) under the pretext of relief of regulation in order to increase the competitive power and removed Labor protection. On that account female workers with family responsibility have to accept lower wages and unstable labor market as a result.

      It has been more than 50 years since the constitution of Japan Article 14 declared the equality under the Law and Labor Standards Law stated "An employer shall not engage in discriminatory treatment of a woman as compared with a man with respect to wages by reason of the worker being a woman." (Article 4)

      However, equality between men and women in Japan has not progressed at all. Drastic reform is required.

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(1) Amendment to the Equal Employment Opportunity Law

a) Strengthening the Equal Employment Opportunity Law

(1) Prohibition of discrimination against women in recruitment, hiring, assignment and promotion.

      The revised law prohibits discrimination against women in all stages of employment from recruitment, hiring, assignment and promotion. However, Japanese Government did not state the prohibition of indirect discrimination. This means Japanese Government disregarded recommendations of CEDAW's. The Japanese Government replied that the reason they did not specify the provision of prohibition of indirect discrimination is that there is no clear common conception, so that it has to be given careful consideration.

      This means that the attitude of the Japanese Government is that it is not the Japanese Government's responsibility to realize gender equality, the Japanese Government is waiting until public opinion changes. However, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women specify that the States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation to modify on abolish existing laws, regulations customs and practices which constitute discrimination against woman without delay (refer to Action 2,3, 5)

(2) Strengthening measures to ensure the effectiveness of the Law.

      Discrimination against female worker is prohibited. However the content of the regulations state that the minister of labour on the director of Prefectural Women's and Young Workers Office shall only provide administrative guidance in the form of advice and guidance on the recommendations to employers who violate the regulations prohibiting discrimination against women. They also publish company names not obeying the advice and guidance. Under the circumstances Japanese Industry is not sufficiently prepared itself to realize gender equality. It is very doubtful that those regulations will be effective. Even after the establishment of the law there are many cases which are urgent such as marriage, child birth and the case of those discharged suddenly due to industry's convenience.

(3) Establishment of regulation to promote positive action.

      There is a report of positive action in the regulation, but it is considered a rather weak provision since the Government will support positive action only if the employer is engaged in such positive action.

      This provision should be a legal obligation to promote women's assignment and promotion. Otherwise, it is hard to remove the gap between women and men.

(4) Establishment of regulations to prevent sexual harassment in the work place.

      Here we would like to report the actual situations of awareness of sexual harassment in the actual working place by introducing one case which took place in a school in December 1998.

      In December 1998 at I Chiba prefectural high school's year end party drunk vice principal touched the breast of a woman teacher who was an MC of the party and put money there. She was very shocked and could not recover from the shock. Consequently she suggested that the school principal admit the fact and provide guidance to the vice principal. She also asked that the incident be reported to the prefectural educational conference. Vice principal has no regret and on the contrary, he sued her for libel. And then she received many spiteful treatments on her work.

      She went to The Women and Young Worker's Office to consult them and asked the prefectural government about the right measures with this incident. However, the result has not yet been clarified.

      Awareness of sexual harassment is notably low in school. Take I high school as an example, women prosecutors face big obstacles due to customs which deny their personalities.

      Considering the actual conditions of sexual harassment in public education which should promote a gender-equal education, it is more difficult to give guidance to public institution than to private ones such as the labor ministry gives to private Industry.

      There are countless cases of sexual harassment against students and women teachers in the educational work place nation-wide. Delayed countermeasures should be corrected immediately.

(5) Mandatory maternal health care.

      The number of danger case pregnancies and deliveries has increased among working women in Japan. From the stand of maternal protection and child health care, maternity leave should be revised to mean compulsory leave.

      We request that not only wages but also substitutional treatment during maternity leave should be guaranteed.

      There are many cases when working women forced into retirement because of difficulty with maternity leave. There are many work places where female workers can not yet take maternity leave.

b) Revision of Labor Standards Law

(1) Abolition of restrictions on overtime work, holiday work, or night work by women.

      In the past few years in Japan the labor protective law has been changed for the worse.Because the present ratio of organization of union is only 20 percent employees, the decisions on working conditions which formerly depended on joint labor management conferences are now unfair and one sided. Overtime work makes labors family responsibilities of workers more difficult and increases women's burden. Immediately after the new law, Women's night work began to increase in the leading Automotive Industry. This reduced costs for industries, but ruined health collapse and caused family crises for employees. Without restriction of maximum working hours, the abolition of the restriction on overtime work, holiday work and night work by women will not promote any gender equality. In addition, we are afraid the abolition of the restriction for the protection of female workers will have a bad influence on Asian Women Worker's working conditions. It is necessary to watch carefully that the working conditions of Asians does not worsen in Japanese enterprises.

c) Establishment of measure to restrict night work by employees taking care of children or other family members (revision of The Child Care and Family Care Leave Law)

      The establishment of a measure to restrict night work by employees is needed. Among these measures, there is an article which make an exception when doing so obstructs the normal operation of a business. This means that if an employer ask for night work the employee must help accept the order. In order to ensure the effectiveness of this measure, the article should be removed.

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(2) Ratifying the ILO 156 Convention. (A convention regarding the equal opportunity and treatment of women and men with family responsibilities )

      The Government report did not mentioned it but in spite of ratifying the convention there are much conspicuous discrimination in Japanese industries.

      In the Sumitomo Mutual Life Insurance case. When female workers express their will to continue to work after their marriage, they are spitefully harassed in various ways and pressed to resign. They also suffer discrimination in wage raises and promotions.

      One woman who continued to go to work after her first baby's birth was not given any work for six years.

      In 1986, the year when The Equal Employment Opportunity Law became effective. Sumitomo Mutual Life Insurance introduced the administrative system of separating employment tracks without any consultation and placed women on the general clerical track and men on the managerial track.

      Furthermore, Sumitomo Life has been discriminating between married women and unmarried women even on the general clerical track. Only 7 percent of married women were promoted to the directorial clerical work while 80 percent of unmarried women were promoted.

      Those women working at Sumitomo Mutual life insurance applied to the Osaka Women's and Young Worker's office for mediation in 1992 and 1994. The office, however, decided not to start mediation for this application. Because "There are no men in the general clerical section to compare to those married women who applied."

      Also The Women's and Young Worker's Office holds the view that "a judgment whether the law is violated or not should be made within the same classification of employment." This is remarkable discrimination against married women in promotion and against the ILO 156 convention.

      Twelve office workers who have had 32 years service and 37 years in service in Sumitomo Life Insurance brought a case to court in 1995.

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(3) Establishing an environment that allows workers to continue working while taking care of children or family members.

1) Enhancing the conditions for worker's taking care of children and other family members.

a) Revision of the Child Care Leave Law

      In 1995 The Child Care Leave Law was revised, and the strengthening of socialization of child care and public child care system are mentioned in The Basic Law designed to Promote a Gender Equal Society enacted in 1999. However, people's sense of the gender-based stereotype roles will not change so easily. Especially working women in the local areas, where the sense of people that men are superior to women, still prevails, have a severe situation.

      We would like to introduce TOYOTA city which is called the Japan Detroit case. This city's economy exists from the manufacturing industry. 82 percent of employees are engaged in the automobile industry. Make workers are overwhelming by the majority of worker and stereotyped role concepts are deeply rooted in this society.

      However according to TOYOTA city's survey, 80 percent of women in there twenties signified their intention of continuing to work after marriage. In spite of their large demand, public child care facilities have not been established at all. Women can not continue to work. However, this old stereotype role concept is the system which has supported the growth of the automobile industry.

      This is the typical structure of Japanese Industries. Although the government established the Child Care Leave Law, it is very difficult to apply it for working women under existing circumstances.

      Finding employment after bringing up a child is very difficult for women who are in their late forties.

b) Establishment of the Child Care Leave benefits and family care leave benefits.

      The Child Care Leave benefits have been established by this revision. The basic child care benefit is 20 percent of the employee's wage before taking such a leave, and a return-to-work benefit amounting to 5 percent of the wage before the leave, multiplied by the number of leave months. Those conditions will not support one's livelihood especially for fatherless family, so it is very difficult to apply the Child Care Leave. It is just the same with family member care leave.

      It is mostly female workers who take Child Care and family member care leaves. Under the present environment in the working place male workers can hardly take leave benefits.

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(4) Promoting measures for part-time work.

      67 percent of part time works is held by women but their wage is half that of full time workers. Under the Japanese traditional practice of employment, if women once leave their working place for marriage or child birth, it is very difficult to find the next employment except part-time work.

      There is a big wage difference between part time work and full time employment although employees work almost the same number of hours and give the same value.

      It is the government's neglect of their duty that caused the wage gap for false part-timers and real part?time workers who are in continues service. There is a revolutionary court case concerning this problem.

      There is a revolutionary court case judgement concerning this problem. Since the Government Report did not mention it, we would like to introduce it. In October 1993, 28 women part time workers at Maruko alarm Industry sued asking for the pay of the balance of their wages. At the time of employment men are employed as full time employees without distinction of being married or unmarried, but married women are employed as part time workers unmarried women are employed full time.

      Full time workers and part time workers are engaged in same work but there is a big wage difference between them.

      The wages of the plaintiffs with 25 years of continuous service were lower than full time employee's starting salary. Nagano District Court gave a decision telling the company that they should be prepared to promote part-time workers who are in continuous service more than a certain number of years to full time workers or should provide a wage standard corresponding to the seniority wage system. On the contrary, the company fixed the plaintiffs position, so there could be no change.

      This is a violation of a public order and standard decency. However if part time workers wage is below 80 percent of full time workers, it is against the Law according to "pay equity."

      This is a limited recognition and an unsatisfactory decision. Now they are appealing to the high court. The Governments Report did not mention temporary workers either, but female workers comprise 72.4 percent of the number of temporary workers. This is also considered one type of discrimination against women and countermeasures are needed. 22 percent of those temporary workers answered that they choose temporary work because they could not find any company where they could work as a regular employees. (Survey of Temporary worked conducted by the Ministry of Labor)

      Originally Temporary work was limited to work that needed special knowledge, technology and experience.

      However in actual cases, Temporary work is adapted and spread over wide range in many fields and the movement of transferring regular employee to temporary workers who then receive lower wages and with no security is increasing in many working places.

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(5) Improving the economic status of women in rural communities.

      As the result of the Japanese Government's attaching importance to Industry and its neglect of agriculture, the number of farm households in Japan decreased from 4,660,000 households to 3,290,000 households and the food self-support rate came down to 41 percent which is the lowest in the world.

      Import liberalization of rice, abolition of agricultural products price security system and industrialization of agriculture management worsen the situation of women who account for 60 percent of the people engaged in agriculture.

      Farm women had supported agriculture and their households by long hours of labor under the traditional family system and old customs which still remain in rural communities. However, a wife does not have the right to inheritance and also they are not admitted as a laborers as family workers in the tax system. These disadvantages prevent the improvement of the economic status of women.

      The Government report called "Building partnerships in rural communities" recommends agreement among peoples' families, but the political measures for agriculture which the Japanese Government promotes makes family management of agriculture difficult to organize and is not intended to admit family workers' wage. The women as the agricultural producers have been asking for the revision of the WTO agreement and protection of Japanese agriculture acutely.

      The Government report did not mention it but we would like to note the self-management women. Because of the serious depression and the neutralizing political measures for restrictions, after the collapse of the bubble economy, medium and small enterprises suffered serious damages. Insolvency and going out of business started one after the other. Suicide of business owners became a social problem. Women who engage in self-management-work work as part-time workers besides carrying on their business to support their livelihood. They are ruining their health and motherhood. Women's labor which supports their business with their husbands is not considered by the present tax system. This is the remnant of the old patriarchal system which does not appreciate women as respectable human beings.

      Women in self-management require the establishment of a sick and injury allowance and birth allowance in health insurance in order to take suspension without uneasiness. The government's measures for self-management women and full-time family worker women are extremely belated. A survey of the actual conditions has not even started.

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(6) Support for women entrepreneurs.

Assuring women of access to the economic system and positive measures for women's companies have not been promoted in Japan.

      To begin with, the Japanese Government is unconcerned with women's participation and gender perspective in Economic planning and the policy decision making process. Gender economics and Gender statistics should be evaluated in the planning and policy decision making process.

      Regarding the opportunity to access the economic system, there is a big gender gap between men and women in Japan. There is no women's participation at all in the executive boards of various Economic and Industrial organizations as well as in the Federation of Economic Organization and in the economic council. If there is some, it is quite a small number.

      These organizations have social responsibility to rectify these gaps in order to increase women's participation since these organizations have great influence upon the economy.

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(7) Measurement and valuation of unpaid work, and its reflection on policies.

      In spite of a large number of women in the working places, gender unbalance around the allocation of paid work and unpaid work, which is conspicuous in Japan, has hardly improved.

      It is necessary to urgently grasp the actual conditions about paid and unpaid work of women and men workers.

      The Ministry of Labor must reform the present policy which manages only paid work and conduct study and research on the connection between paid work and unpaid work.

      There is also a necessity to promote measures to ensure the time for unpaid work (house-work, child care, family care, voluntary activity) is recognized.

      The Labor Ministry should deliberate women's contribution to the economic and social development from both sides, paid work and unpaid work, when performing economic planning and policy decisions. Taking this into consideration on employment and income policy is also important.

      The Economic Planning Agency estimated unpaid work on a monetary basis, and this was a first attempt to respond to the Beijing Platform. It is indispensable to make the best use of this result, taking into consideration all the policies from the perspective of gender.

      Also the NGO started their own activity to investigate and analyze the daily hours spent on unpaid work. (Kanagawa Network Movement)

      Further we would like to add that there are a spouse deduction, family allowance, exemption of annuity obligation and right to receive pension for survivors as a social security which is considered the assistance of one's wife's assessment. These systems develop a tendency to control an employee's wife's yearly income under 1,300,00 yen. It reduces the women's desire to work and makes industries preserve the custom which does not admit women's rightful promotion and wage raise. Such assistance of one's wife assessment should be abolished and changed into the system which taxes and secures individual labor.

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(8) Action to remove wage gap between women and men.

      It has already been 10 years since the Equal Employment Opportunity Law was enacted. However the wage gap between men and women is still 51 percent (63 percent part-time work excepted).

      Why can not the wage gap be corrected?

      The Government's report stated that this gap stems largely from the difference in duties, length of service and educational background, and so on. But this is not true.

      At present, we have about 20 cases of wage discrimination on trial, which are mostly lawsuits from female workers who have been working continuously for more than 20 years.

      There are many cases in which some women had the same educational background as men workers. Some had the same duties and some did not. However, generally female workers received the wage 60 percent of the wage of men.

      Here we would like to introduce the case of Sumitomo Electric. At the time recruitment and hiring and before enactment of Employment Opportunity Law, the senior-high-school-graduate men were hired at main office as a future executives but the senior-high-school-graduate women were hired at the branch office workers.

      The company insisted that at that time women in general retired early so the company could not expect women to work to accumulate a career as executives for the future, and work as managing staff who have engage in overtime work and holiday work, since there was legalistic restrictions of labor hours for women. It was also difficult to assign women workers to busy positions. It was also hard for the women workers transferred which is accompanied by change of residence. Consequently, senior-high-school-graduate men workers were all transferred to the managerial track and promoted to managerial posts. However, female workers were all designated as general clerical workers without being consulted.

      Sumitomo Electric's female workers applied to the Osaka Women's and Young Workers office for mediation because of obvious discrimination. The office, however, decided not to start any mediation.

      Now the women's case against Sumitomo Electric has moved to include state compensation.

      The Japanese Government stated in the suit that the men whom the plaintiffs were compared with were hired on a different employment track consequently this case is not concerned with the Equal Employment Opportunity Law. The Equal Employment Opportunity Law is effective only for the future. Even if the difference in the employment track means separate labor management for men and women at time when the Equal Employment Opportunity Law was not enforced, it was rare to have them the same and people's perception did not regard it as a violation.

      According to the classification of kinds of work, qualifications, experience and ability at the time of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law that law will be enforced on the same day as the Equal Employment Opportunity Law will be applied.

      If the female workers, who have been working and suffering from discrimination for 20 or 30 years, and who have been employed before the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, did not receive any remedy.

      Then what does the revision of the wage gap between men and women mean. There is obvious discrimination in these different employment tracks. But the government excuses their stance saying that the different tracks cannot be compared and this is the guidance offered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Law.

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