Plan for Gender Equality 2000

5. Supporting Women and Men to Harmonize Work with Family and Community Life

[Basic Direction of Measures]

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women emphasizes that family responsibilities should be born by both women and men. Also, "The Convention Concerning Equal Opportunities and Equal Treatment for Women and Men Workers: Workers with Family Responsibilities" (hereafter referred to as ILO Convention 156), aims at all workers regardless of gender, to harmonize vocational responsibilities along with family responsibilities such as child and family care. This represents the most fundamental thinking behind a gender-equal society, and measures in line with this purpose should be carried out.

Child care and family care responsibilities are expected to become ever greater in Japan amid the rapid shrinking of family size and the aging of society. Against this backdrop, it has become extremely important that women and men share responsibilities at home and that society as a whole support this. In addition to promoting gender equality at home, it has become urgent to promote the enhancement of child care and family care services, and the improvement of working conditions for workers engaged in those services. There is also a need to enrich regional communities by establishing conditions that enable gender-equal participation, and by encouraging contribution to the community. Active promotion of such measures will help establish a base to make it possible for women and men to make their work lives compatible with their home and community lives, and promote a shift among men from a work-centered mentality and lifestyle to one that is balanced between the workplace and the home and community.

(1) Enhancing measures to support the alignment of child-raising with diverse ways of life

Child care should be supported by society as a whole, and creating an environment for raising healthy children should be treated as an urgent issue. Based on this understanding, efforts must be made to promote consideration of a new child welfare system to enhance day care services matched to a variety of needs, to reduce the economic burden of raising children, and to enhance guidance/support systems for eliminating isolation and worry about raising children.

Also, welfare measures should be enhanced to promote economic and social independence of single parent families with serious concerns about raising their children, etc.

[Concrete Measures]

(a) Enhancing measures to support child-raising aligned with diverse ways of life

- Enhancing childcare services

Establish a system that makes it possible to select high-quality childcare matched to each child's needs, and enhance a variety of childcare services, e.g., childcare for infants, extended childcare, and temporary childcare. Plan increased flexibility in the management of kindergartens that, for example, will continue to look after children even after ordinary class hours.

Enhance measures for children in the lower grades of elementary school who do not have guardians at home after school.

Conduct a survey of the current state of private sector childcare support services, including babysitters, and study support policies.

- Improve the consultation/support system for child-rearing

Establish a system to provide consultation and support to eliminate isolation and worry about child-rearing, e.g., the establishment of a home support telephone consultation system that enables people to comfortably discuss their concerns, the provision of learning opportunities related to home education, consultation and provision of information for parents, and the building of a support network for child-rearing.

Promote kindergartens open to the community, with opportunities for exchanging information on child-rearing.

- Study ways to reduce economic costs related to child-raising and support measures for the building of assets

Conduct a study of what kind of social support is the best in reducing the economic costs related to raising children, e.g., making daycare fees more "fair."

Support self-help efforts to save for one's children, e.g., Educational Endowment Insurance with Scholarship Annuity, educational installment savings.

(b) Enhancement of support for single-parent families

- Enhance various types of support for single-parent families

Encourage employment assistance measures to promote the financial stability and independence of single-parent families, e.g., professional consultation/guidance, paid professional training, and on-the-job training, wage subsidies to employers who hire mothers rearing children on their own, etc. Enhance measures such as Loans from welfare funds for mothers with dependent children and widows and livelihood guidance, etc. of counselors for fatherless families and dormitories for fatherless families. Promote measures to support fathers raising children on their own.

Responsible authorities: Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Education, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, Ministry of Labor

(2) Improving the environment for the continued employment of workers engaged in child care/family care

[Basic Direction of Measures]

With the decreasing rate of birth, aging of society and trend toward nuclear families, the problems of child care and family care have become serious for workers continuing to work.

Therefore, an environment should be promoted that enables workers with child care and family care responsibilities to feel comfortable about taking the necessary leave of absence and to be able to make a smooth return to the workplace afterwards. Also, an environment should be established that enables those workers to assume family responsibilities while working.

[Concrete Measures]

(a) Establishing an environment that makes it easy to take child care/family care leave and return to the workplace

- Promote early introduction of the family care leave system and the firm establishment of the child care leave system

Introduce the family care leave system at an early stage , which becomes mandatory from April 1999, as well as measures to reduce work hours for family care through the use of subsidies, etc. Study the provision of economic support to workers during family care leave.

Promote the establishment and proper operation of the family care leave system as well as measures to reduce work hours for family care and the utilization of child care allowances.

- Establish an environment that makes it easy for workers taking child care and family care leave to return to the workplace

Provide subsidies to employers taking measures to prevent a drop/promote a recovery in the workplace adaptability and abilities of those taking child care or family care leave, and promote the establishment of an environment that makes it possible for workers taking leave to make a smooth return to the workplace.

- Ensure substitutes for workers taking child care or family care leave

Ensure the proper management of special systems set up by worker dispatching services to provide substitutes for workers taking child care or family care leave. Enhance the functions of special consultation services at major public job placement offices in order to contribute to the securing of such substitutes.

- Study issues that affect workers' families

Broadly study the issues affecting workers' families in general, not only the problems of child care and family care, but also such issues as nursing care leave.

(b) Establishing an environment that makes it easy to continue work while engaging in child care and family care

- Support employers' efforts to establish an environment that makes work and child care/family care compatible

Support voluntary efforts on the part of employers to establish an environment that makes work and child care/family care compatible, e.g., establishment of company nurseries, subsidizing of expenses for child care and family care.

- Support workers engaged in child care/family care through provision of information, consultation and courses

Promote consultation and information on various services, including "2020 Telephone" child care and family care. Conduct seminars on the knowledge and mental preparation needed to help workers pull through child care and family care while working.

- Promote regional initiatives to make work and child care/family care compatible

Assist Family Support Centers carrying out mutual assistance activities for regional child care in order to respond to changing and irregular child care demands.

Support local governments setting up facilities that carry out specific projects necessary to support the compatibility of work life and family life for male and female workers engaged in child care or family care.

Responsible authorities: Ministry of Labor

(3) Assistance for those seeking re-employment

[Basic Direction of Measures]

Opportunities for re-employment should be secured and a smooth return to work should be supported through re-employment extension systems, etc. for workers who retired in order to engage in child care or family care.

[Concrete Measures]

(a) Promoting extension of re-employment systems

- Promote extension of re-employment systems

Secure employment opportunities for those seeking re-employment after retiring to engage in child care or family care, e.g., payment of grants to employers who hire such workers through re-employment systems.

(b) Support for those seeking re-employment

- Support for those seeking re-employment

Support the smooth return to work of those who have retired to engage in child care or family care, but who wish to be re-hired in the future, such as by registering those workers, providing information to them, and extending assistance for their further education and training.

- Support for re-employment through "Ladies Hello Work"

Promote the system of support for re-employment through the "Ladies Hello Work," system of public employment security offices specializing in job placement for women who want to work but have difficulty finding work because of child care or family care responsibilities. Provide detailed professional consultation and job placement services at these centers.

- Implement occupational training to support for re-employment

Offer special occupational training courses that are matched to those workers' schedules to promote the smooth re-hiring of workers who have left the workplace to engage in child care or family care.

Responsible authorities: Ministry of Labor

(4) Promoting joint participation between women and men in family life and community life

[Basic Direction of Measures]

To enable women and men to align their work lives and family lives, and jointly participate in community life, work hours, which is a basic work condition, should be shortened and active participation in family and community life on the part of men, who have traditionally participated to only a limited extent, should be promoted.

Policies should be enhanced that enable women and men to actively participate in various community activities (consumer life, volunteer activities, environmental problems), which will have especially important meaning in Japanese society in the future.

[Concrete Measures]

(a) Promoting joint participation between women and men in family life

- Conduct informative and educational activities to correct gender role stereotypes

Inform and enlighten the public in order to correct gender role stereotypes, spread the idea of equality between women and men, and promote joint participation between women and men in family life during Human Rights Week, Women's Week and on all other occasions.

- Enhance learning opportunities related to home education

Provide opportunities for learning about the raising of children, targeting youth, i.e., "future parents," at an early point in their lives.

- Support and promote participation of fathers in home education

Study policies to promote the participation of fathers in home education, enhance opportunities for such experiments between parents and children and use appeals to companies to support these practices, etc. to popularize such participation.

- Promote worker "refresh" measures

Promote policies that enable workers to take a break and recuperate to achieve a balance among the workplace, home and community including the extension of "refresh" break systems.

(b) Promoting joint participation between women and men in the community

- Conduct promotional and educational activities to encourage understanding toward community activities

Conduct promotional and educational activities aimed at revising the work-centered consciousness and lifestyles of men and encouraging participation by women and men in community activities at every available opportunity.

- Promote and support consumer education

Encourage learning about consumer living through the community education programs offered by local governments, and offer courses open to the public at national universities, etc. Promote the establishment of comprehensive systems for excellent consumer education, producing manuals, and building up databases on available educational materials and instructors. Support related studies and research, as well as training programs.

- Support participation in environmental conservation activities

Promote projects that provide information and opportunities for exchange on environmental issues and support the promotion of environmental learning opportunities in the community and the activities of NGOs, bearing in mind the extremely important role played by women in the resolution of environmental problems both in Japan and abroad, and in order to support and promote efforts aimed at environmental conservation through partnerships among all actors that make up civil society.

- Improve the environment for promoting participation in volunteer activities

Establish an environment where all individuals can readily enjoy volunteer activities whenever and wherever they want and, in the process, fully utilize the results, knowledge and skills acquired through their daily learning activities to enrich our communities. In concrete terms, promote the following:

(1) Informative and educational activities for the outreach of volunteer activities

(2) Consultation, information collection/provision, introductory courses/experiential projects on volunteer activities

(3) Registration/introduction of volunteer activities

(4) Training, securing of leaders and coordinators for volunteer activities

(5) Securing a focal point for volunteer activities

(6) Introduction of a volunteer work leave system

(7) Studies and research on volunteer activities

Also, study mechanisms to provide social support for organizations conducting volunteer activities.

(c) Improving work conditions (e.g., shortening work hours)

- Shorten work hours

Promote the shortening of work hours to enable women and men workers to reconcile their work lives with their family lives, and also to participate in their communities. Promote the 40-hour work week from 1 April 1997, establish the 5-day work week, encourage workers to use their annual leave and reduce overtime work, so as to achieve the target of 1,800 work hours per year as early as possible.

- Extend flex-time system, etc.

Promote the extension of flex-time and other systems to enable autonomous, creative and efficient work.

Responsible authorities: Prime Minister's Office, Economic Planning Agency, Environment Agency, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labor