Women in Japan Today 2003

News From the Headquarters for the Promotion of Gender Equality

Proposal for the Positive Actions by the Positive Action Promotion Council

In July 2001, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare established the Positive Action Promotion Council, comprising company executives, intellectuals and government officials, with the aim of fostering widespread adoption of positive action in cooperation with the private sector. In April 2002, the Council summarized the results of considerable discussion in a report entitled "Proposal for the Positive Actions" (Report by the Positive Action Promotion Council), with the aim of encouraging companies to cope with the issue of positive action independently. The proposal clarifies what is meant by "positive action", why companies need to cope with this issue, and the merits of doing so. Based on the results of interviews with the executives and personnel managers of companies pushing ahead with positive action, and women active in society, the report also includes a number of ideas on how to promote positive action and a list of matters managers, individuals responsible for promoting project teams, personnel managers, workplace supervisors, working women, working men, the Council and the Government should each be tackling

Based on the proposal, the Prefectural Labor Bureaus established positive action promotion councils in each region, and are currently endeavoring to spread the proposal in cooperation with management organizations.

Key Points of the Panel Report on Gender Wage Gap

In November 2001, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare established a Panel on Gender Wage Gap to analyze the primary factors behind gender wage gap, assess the effects of companies' wage and personnel management systems, and study possible measures to reduce the gap. In November 2002, the Panel compiled a report on the results of its deliberations, the key points of which are noted below.

  1. In terms of the gender wage gap in Japan (the prescribed salaries of regular workers), if men's wages are equated to 100, women's stand at 65.3 (2001). The trend is for this to decline over the long-term, but this comprises a large gap when viewed from an international perspective.
  2. Factors lying behind the gender wage gap are both numerous and diverse, but the overriding factor is the difference between men and women's job classifications (posts such as division chief, section chief and subsection chief). The number of years of service also exerts an effect. Employees' family allowances and other similar allowances also affect the wage gap.
  3. ather than lying in the wage system itself, in the majority of cases of wage gap, the problem is thought to arise from managerial aspects of employment, such as operation of the wage system including personnel evaluations, the accumulated effect of the way duties are assigned within the workplace and the way posts are assigned.
  4. As a result,
    Labor and management are being called upon to promote measures for positive action and the creation of family-friendly workplaces, such as measures to establish and apply impartial and transparent wage and personnel evaluation systems; to review living allowances; and to improve the way posts and work duties are assigned.
    The Government needs to prepare and popularize guidelines on improvement measures for wage and employment management that facilitate management and labor's independent efforts to eliminate gender wage gap, and support their efforts. And as an interim issue, the Government also needs to study ways of promoting positive action, and push ahead with comprehensive deliberations on what kinds of cases entail indirect discrimination.

Panel on Equal Employment Opportunity Policies between Men and Women

Establishing an employment environment that enables women to fully display their abilities without gender discrimination comprises an important issue, and three years have passed since the revised Equal Employment Opportunity Law was fully enforced.

In November 2002, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare established a Panel on Equal Employment Opportunity Policies between Men and Women, composed of intellectuals, with the aim of examining further measures to secure de facto gender-equal employment management, based on issues omitted from the revised Equal Employment Opportunity Law that were incorporated into additional resolutions adopted by the Diet at the time of the 1997 revision, and the enforcement status of the revised Equal Employment Opportunities Law.

Measures for Gender Equality within the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

Women account for approximately 60% of the labor force engaged in agriculture, and not only are they important in terms of agricultural management, but they also contribute to the maintenance and revitalization of local communities.

In recent years, female farmers' participation in community policy decision-making has been increasing. Women's entrepreneurial activities, such as morning markets and processing of agricultural products, grow more active by the year.

However, women's level of participation in decision-making remains low, and the scale of their entrepreneurial activities remains trifling.

Consequently, there is a need to foster awareness of this problem within the community, to change perceptions within the household, and to build a support system for women of childbirth/child raising years.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries currently implements measures to address the following issues.

Expansion of women's participation in policy-making processes: Set targets for women's appointment to community policy-making organs such as agricultural cooperatives and committees, and support measures to achieve this. Engage in events to raise awareness such as "Rural Women's Day".
Improvement of the financial status of women: Promote the introduction of IT to support the entrepreneurial activities of female farmers. Promote financial loans needed to manifest high added value in processed agricultural products.
Establishment of an environment that is easy for women to live and be active in: Promote the conclusion of Family Business Agreements that clarify roles and responsibilities in agricultural management and daily life. Conduct motherhood protection seminars and train counselors to support child raising as a means of promoting the managerial participation of women of childbirth/child raising age.