OSAKA – In a move that follows expressions of concern over privacy, the welfare ministry will abolish a system under which a unique sequence of numerals is used for pension numbers given to those who have legally changed their sex, according to sources at an advocacy group and the ministry.
The Japan Pension Service began to assign a new number last October to those who have changed their registered gender in addition to the numbers they had before, saying it had experienced computer errors in tracking the status of such people before and after they changed their status, the ministry said Thursday.
The additional pension number consists of a fixed sequence of numerals in the first four digits of a 10-digit sequence. The ministry said that at least 300 people have been assigned the additional numbers.
The move sparked criticism, with some saying it was tantamount to an invasion of privacy as the gender registry change of an employee could be discovered by employers who pay into the pension program.
An internal document of the pension service identifying which numerals were used at the start of the additional pension numbers of those who have changed their registered gender was also temporarily viewable online, prompting the service to issue new pension books with different fixed numbers to around 200 people by last April.
On Thursday, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry communicated its decision about the upcoming system change to the advocacy group gid.jp, which campaigns on behalf of people who have gender identity disorder. The ministry is expected to formalize its decision after holding deliberations.
According to the group, about 3,500 people with the disorder have legally changed their registered sex under a 2003 law. The number of people taking the step has been growing each year, and it totaled about 730 in 2012.
The ministry said that it plans to ask those who have been given an additional number whether they wish to revert to using the old number alone.
The advocacy group was apparently not expecting the ministry to meet its requests. “The flexibility surprised even us,” said Ran Yamamoto, a representative of the group.