Panel looks to eliminate gender bias

A government panel called Tuesday for a ban on indirect gender-based discrimination and unfair treatment of pregnant women in the field of employment.

In response, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will set up an advisory council later this year to consider revisions to the law on equal job opportunities for men and women, ministry officials said.

The council will feature management and labor representatives.

The ministry plans to submit a bill aimed at revising the law to the Diet during its 2006 ordinary session, they said.

The panel report states that gender-based discrimination may exist indirectly if employers cite height, weight and physical strength or academic background as hiring requirements, which could effectively place women at a disadvantage.

It also notes that the current law fails to restrict such practices.

If registered householders are designated as the only company employees eligible to receive fringe benefits such as family allowances, this could amount to indirect gender-based discrimination, it says. In Japan, most householders are male.

As for the unfair treatment of pregnant women or women who have given birth to children, the report notes that the equal opportunity law bans only dismissal, although this treatment may include changes in working status and relocation.