Plan for Gender Equality 2000

II. Achieving Gender Equality in the Workplace, Family and Community

3. Assuring Equal Opportunity and Equal Treatment in Employment

[Basic Direction of Measures]

Employment forms the economic base for people's lives and is of extremely important significance in the realization of a gender-equal society. As women move into the workplace, an environment should be established so that each woman can select an occupation that best suits her various employment needs, and can fully display her talents in her chosen field without facing gender-based discrimination.

In particular, measures should be positively implemented to realize conditions under which women obtain equal opportunities and, according to their efforts and abilities, receive equal treatment to men in the field of employment.

(1) Promoting equal opportunity and equal treatment in employment

The Equal Employment Opportunity Law has been in effect for 10 years, and improvements have been made in the employment and management of women by companies. In many cases, however, women are still not given equal opportunities in comparison with men, so issues concerning the Law remain relevant. In addition to making full efforts to publicize the purpose of the Law, extensive consideration should be given to securing equal opportunity and treatment between women and men, including revision of laws and ordinances. Based on the results of that consideration, necessary legal steps should be taken.

Furthermore, measures should be positively promoted in order to realize not only institutional but also practical equality in the workplace.

[Concrete Measures]

- Review stipulations on protection of women in the Equal Employment Opportunity Law and provision for the protection of women under the Labor Standards Law

Revise stipulations in the Equal Employment Opportunity Law and the provision for the protection of women in the Labor Standards Law, in addition to further promoting equality between women and men and expanding the scope of women's work, and publicize those revisions in order to further increase the practical applicability of laws.

- Enforce equality between women and men in employment

Enhance and strengthen administrative structures for promotion, in addition to enforcing observance of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, and actively providing guidance to company personnel management based on laws to secure equal treatment between women and men.

- Resolve conflicts between women workers and companies

Provide mobile assistance to women workers and employers through Women's and Young Workers' Offices nationwide, and enhance and strengthen the conflict resolution functions of the Equal Opportunity Mediation Commission in order to quickly, easily, and smoothly resolve conflicts between women workers and companies.

- Promote measures to eliminate wage discrepancies

Open various employment opportunities equally to women and men and help both women and men to reconcile their work lives with their home lives in order to reduce the wage discrepancy existing between women and men in Japan which in large part comes from differences between women and men in terms of fields of work, job type, and seniority. Take action for this purpose. Analyze the causes of wage discrepancy between women and men and find methods to improve the situation, in addition to enforcing the principal of equal wages for women and men as established in the Labor Standards Law.

- Encourage positive actions on the part of companies

In order to revise the de facto discrepancies in the workplace, it is important for companies to not only provide equal opportunities, but also actively develop and utilize the talents of women. Therefore, formulate guidelines on corporate measures with reference to the positive actions taken in other countries, and publicize those guidelines. Support companies taking comprehensive action, e.g., finding the problems, formulating improvement plans, inspecting/evaluating concrete measures and their implementation.

- Develop awareness among laborers, management and society in general

Deepen awareness and understanding among laborers, management and society in general at every available opportunity, e.g., Equal Employment Opportunity Month in order to further communicate the purpose of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law.

Responsible authorities: Ministry of Labor

(2) Protection of working women during pregnancy/after childbirth

[Basic Direction of Measures]

Enhance measures related to the health care of pregnant women and nursing mothers, thereby ensuring an environment in which women can work with peace of mind during pregnancy as well as after giving birth.

[Concrete Measures]

- Enforce observance of maternal protection rules under the Labor Standards Law

Instruct employers to observe maternal protection rules under the Labor Standards Law in order to protect working mothers.

- Improve measures related to the health care of pregnant women and nursing mothers

Actively promote maternal health care to ensure that pregnant women and nursing mothers receive proper guidance on their health, and to ensure that employers take such measures as changing or reducing the work hours of such women as necessary based on that guidance. Enhance the maternal health care system, e.g., encourage the selection of maternal health care promoters, and utilize experts (such as physicians) who provide guidance on maternal health care.

Responsible authorities: Ministry of Labor

(3) Developing the work talents of women and supporting the display of those talents

[Basic Direction of Measures]

Amid the shift in economic and industrial structures accompanying internationalization and the technological revolution most vividly displayed in the field of info-communications, women need to acquire the skills that enable them to make inroads into specialist fields, management positions and a broad range of other areas. Thus, the development of women's work talents is more important than ever. Each woman has diverse work needs and it is important to actively promote women's personal efforts to develop the talents they seek to develop. Therefore, measures should be actively promoted regarding vocational skills development that accurately respond to such social changes while taking advantage of the unique talents of individual workers.

An increasing number of women are expressing a desire to work and/or to continue working, but the talents of these women are not being adequately utilized within society. It is important that each woman is able to demonstrate her talents and work in a way that suits her, and it is vital to promote the smooth entry into the labor market of women seeking employment, especially in light of the anticipated reductions in the work force as a result of falling birthrates and the aging of society. To this end, it is necessary to provide various support measures, e.g., initiatives that actively support women's participation in society, particularly through work, and research on appropriate support measures from the perspective of industrial policy.

[Concrete Measures]

- Promote in-house education and training

Provide advice and information on in-house education and training, as well as to actively support company efforts through, for example, subsidies to cover the expenses for such education and training.

- Actively promote vocational skills development in the public sector

Actively implement the vocational training needed to adapt to the changes in the industrial structure and promote vocational training at public vocational skills development facilities that responds to the increased interest in short-term work.

- Promote voluntary vocational skills development

Provide advice, guidance and subsidies to employers working to provide self-development opportunities and assistance in the extension and participation of corporate systems of paid leave for education and training. Foster an environment toward voluntary vocational skills development through, for example, advice and guidance to vocational skills development promoters in companies. Provide assistance to help individual laborers cover the costs of voluntary skills development.

- Promote initiatives to support participation by women in society

Promote the empowerment of women by: establishing facilities that serve as a focal point for the comprehensive development of projects to actively support women's participation in society particularly through work; supporting the development of women's talents through seminars, courses, and consultation; receiving and providing information on working women; holding exhibits on the past, present and future conditions of working women; conducting exchanges among working women; and carrying out other initiatives.

- Survey and research ways of supporting the display of women's talents

Conduct surveys and research that study further concrete policies, from the viewpoint of industrial policy, to help women who want to work to display their talents, and to support their smooth entry into the labor market.

Responsible authorities: Ministry of Labor, Ministry of International Trade and Industry

(4) Establishing employment conditions that enable various working patterns

[Basic Direction of Measures]

As workers' values and lifestyles have changed, their working patterns have diversified. In addition to improving the work environment so that it enables these workers to choose various working patterns, e.g., part-time work or dispatched work, employment conditions should be improved to ensure that such working patterns do not lead to an increase in workers who are forced to work under poor conditions.

The recent developments of information technology have led to a further expansion of work patterns based on such technology. Such working patterns make it possible to easily reconcile work life with home and community life, so efforts should be made to establish the necessary working conditions. As work opportunities diversify, a growing number of women are wanting to start up their own businesses. These women, however, tend to be inadequately informed; thus, support policies need to be enhanced.

[Concrete Measures]

(a) Comprehensive promotion of part-time work measures

- Publicize the Law Concerning the Improvement of Employment and Management, etc., of Part-time Workers

Publicize the Law Concerning the Improvement of Employment and Management, etc., of Part-time Workers in order to ensure appropriate work conditions for part-time workers and to improve employment practices. Inform employers about the application of the Labor Standards Law, Minimum Wage Law and other laws and ordinances to protect workers, enforce observance of minimum labor standards, and provide support for the improvement of employment practices, e.g., implementation of education and training, enhancement of welfare.

Properly assess the state of implementation of this Law and study, when necessary, various policies including a review of legal measures.

- Ensure that the working conditions of part-time workers are clearly spelled out

Disseminate a model employment notification form that spells out the main working conditions, e.g., pay, hours for part-time workers work under various conditions, so as to prevent any trouble after hiring. Promote and ensure the improvement of work rules and the clear disclosure of working conditions.

- Stabilize the employment of part-time workers

Operate job placement services at part-time employment banks and part-time employment satellites and provide more thorough consultation and advice to employers.

- Develop the skills of part-time workers

Develop the skills of part-time workers at vocational skills development promotion centers and prefectural vocational skills development schools in order to increase part-time work opportunities and facilitate entry into the labor market.

(b) Promoting measures related to worker dispatching enterprises

- Ensure the proper operation of dispatching enterprises

Ensure the proper operation of worker dispatching enterprises, which means the careful audit of notice, etc., related to those services, as well as organized and effective guidance to and supervision of both the employer of a dispatching enterprise and the client.

Provide attention to designated work, such as the new fields of business where worker dispatching enterprises may be utilized (based on 1996 revisions of the system) and substitution services for workers taking child care or family care leave.

- Ensure proper working conditions for dispatched workers

Announce guidelines on measures which should be taken by the employer of dispatching enterprises and clients and provide guidance toward the appropriate and effective implementation of those measures in order to ensure the proper working conditions for dispatched workers.

- Consider revising the worker dispatching enterprise system

Review the worker dispatching enterprise system such that full consideration is given to protection of the worker, and that the scope of designated work and employment conditions of the worker are improved, from the perspective of strengthening adjustment in supply and demand of the private work force to adapt to the changes in medium- to long-term economic and social conditions.

(c) Supporting women entrepreneurs

- Promote measures to support women entrepreneurs

Give comprehensive support (financial, personnel related and/or technology related) to entrepreneurs to ensure that any person, female or male, is able to start up a business if she/he so wishes. Fully understand the actual situation and needs of women entrepreneurs and those seeking to become entrepreneurs, as women entrepreneurs face a variety of challenges that differ from those faced by men entrepreneurs, and implement a variety of well-planned support measures, e.g., provision of information, implementation of model courses. Promote support to ensure that the women entrepreneur measures conducted by local governments and other public-private organizations are given more impetus.

(d) Support for family employees

- Ascertain the situation of family employees

Ascertain the employment situation of those working in commercial or other family businesses and improve their situations.

- Improve the working conditions of industrial homeworkers

Improve the working conditions of industrial homeworkers through the dissemination of homework record books, realization of "plans to newly set/revise minimum wages," and special coverage under workers compensation insurance.

(e) Promotion of measures concerning new types of work

- Extend/promote "telework"

Study various types of work, including telework (i.e., remote work from home or satellite offices which has increased with progress in information technology) and, based on the results of such a study, promote the widespread use of these work types, while giving due consideration to the working environment.

Establish joint-use "telework centers" that would make it possible for people to work without leaving their residential area, and potentially increase work opportunities and the number of people who reside permanently in one place. Encourage broad public support for the expansion of telework, while promoting financial support and other measures for the establishment of model projects nationwide.

Responsible authorities: Ministry of Labor, Management and Coordination Agency, Ministry of Education, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications