Deep changes urged in Japan’s male-centered work culture


Staff Writer

A government advisory panel on gender equality called on the nation Tuesday to change the male-oriented work culture based on the outdated family model in which men work long hours while women take care of the home.

In an 82-page report submitted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the panel said Japan’s notoriously long working hours and frequent job relocations that took root during the postwar boom need to be fundamentally reviewed.

The outdated corporate culture has made it difficult for women to fully execute their abilities, or for men to participate in homemaking and child rearing, the report says.

Recommended measures include placing caps on overtime hours and creating a work environment to encourage employees to take all their paid holidays. The report calls on the government to consider setting numerical targets with deadlines to reduce overtime.

Based on the proposals, the government will draw up by the end of this year its fourth basic plan to achieve gender equality with numerical targets. The basic plan is reviewed every five years, and the next raft of changes will take effect in April.

The report urges the government to accelerate measures to achieve its target of increasing women in managerial positions to 30 percent by 2020.

It calls on companies and government offices to increase their efforts to place more female candidates in executive positions.

Regarding the Civil Code dating back to the Meiji Era (1868-1912), which bans women from remarrying for six months after they divorce, forces married couples to choose a single surname and sets different legal marriage ages for women and men, the report says the system should be reviewed based on “judicial decisions,” apparently referring to an upcoming Supreme Court decision on the matter.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to rule Dec. 16 on two cases questioning the constitutionality of Civil Code articles that prohibit only women from remarrying for six months and forces married couples to choose a single surname. It will be the first time for the top court to rule on the issue.

The century-old Civil Code provisions on families have been criticized as out of date and discriminatory against women.

The report calls for beefing up measures to eradicate sexual harassment as well as maternity harassment — a term used for discrimination in workplace against women who are pregnant, on child-care leave or who have returned to work after giving birth.

It recommends measures such as disclosing company names or imposing penalties when corporations fail to prevent maternity harassment.

According to labor ministry data, women accounted for 43 percent of all employees in 2013. The percentage of females in management positions, however, stood at around 10 percent, while more than 50 percent of working women were nonregular employees.

The government is also falling short when it comes to women in leading positions.

Taro Kono, minister in charge of the public servant system, revealed Tuesday that as of July 1, the ratio of women in managerial position at ministries and government offices marked a record high 3.5 percent, or 330 people, up 0.2 point from September last year.

However, the government failed to meet its goal of 5 percent by the end of this year.

  • Hans Gruber

    Unpaid overtime and even paid overtime wasn’t that big a deal when only dad worked late at the office, but the same expectations are now put on working mothers. You can’t raise a family if both parents are working late at the office! This is a big reason fewer people are having children.

    Disclosing company names or imposing penalties on corporations won’t make any difference. There’s already a ban on unpaid overtime but everyone does it anyway. Companies brush of fines as business expenses.

    No. If the government wants the culture to change, they have to show they absolutely mean it.

  • disqus_vBekJrf7g5

    ‘Government advisory panel’. Is this the same government led by a man whose wife owns a bar/restaurant, but isn’t allowed to run it because his mother says she can’t?
    Yeah, good luck with that ‘male-centered work culture’ thing.

  • Hendrix

    It all sounds very nice and progressive but it won’t happen because chauvinism and sexism are far too entrenched in Japanese culture, first the government needs to look at culture and how that can be reformed , that will take many generations… don’t hold your breath.

  • GBR48

    This needs legislation with substantial fines and public shaming for non-compliance. Even this will only speed up what will be a generational process, as prejudices such as these are deeply entrenched.

    My grandmother (who is in her 90s) firmly believes that women should not be in positions of power and authority over men and will neither watch a TV series nor read a book if the dominant character is female.

  • skillet

    This 30 percent target is unfair to men as women make different lifestyle choices. Men are more often willing to work until late at night whereas women choose quality of life. As a result, you will end up with a caste system. Men will still be working until midnight competing for the slots allocated to men. Whereas the women will leave the office at 5:00 and head for the spa. They will still get their promotions if the government requires equal numbers of management positions for women.

    This is already happening in Western countries. My Japanese brother-in-law used to work until 2:00 in the morning back in the days of the Bank of Tokyo. He then woke up and left the house out five. He should get a special t-shirt saying, “I survived karoshi !”.

    He deserved every promotion he got and ever dime he made. I do not think many women would do what he did.

    Whether it is war or work, feminists want to keep the advantages of chivalry. Which necessitates a “disposable male”. But they still want the easy promotions at work.

  • Richard Solomon

    Penalties need to be imposed on companies that do not reduce overtime, allow people to take paid holidays, and harass women for maternity leave. A 5% goal of more women in management in government ministries is ridiculous. If Abe is really serious bailout his so called womenomics, he’d have more than 3 women in his cabinet. How about 6-7 women NOW? He’d also order his ministries to reach much higher percentages inn the next few years: Eg, 10% by the end of 2016, 15% by the end of 2017, 20% by the end of 2018, etc.

    He’d change the tax code so there is less incentive for women to be stay at home housewives and mothers with their children. As more women work, Abe would need to have more daycare programs up and running.

    The time for talk is over. Abe needs to act decisively, even in the face of complaints from his male supporters.

  • Dan

    The reason people don’t take paid holidays is not because companies won’t allow them, it’s social pressure. Penalizing companies for not allowing employees to take holidays isn’t going to make the slightest differnence, holidays must be mandatory if they are ever going to break the “I must show everyone I work more than them” culture.

  • Pragmatic Autocratic

    Does anyone else here notice a trend occurring lately with the Japabese government? The Japanese government is trying to make Japan look as pristine and flawless as possible to the rest of the world prior to the Olympics. It’s like most things that are done Japan, everything looks nice and pretty on the surface, but it’s what lies beneath that conveys it’s true character. The Japanese propaganda machine is deceitfully attempting to convince the rest of the world that Japan embraces equality, lacks discrimination, is modern and futuristic but in reality, those that reside here know very well, it couldn’t be further from the truth. This country is 3rd world at its best and is way behind the rest of the world in terms of equality, infrastructure, dilapidated buildings, anti-discrimination, and equal distribution of resources and wealth to the public. Prices for food, clothing, electronics, etc. are outrageously overpriced. All while the government and major corporations continually neglect gender inequality issues and numerous other societal problems that need to be addressed. This talk about gender equality is lip service and looks nice on paper.

  • Editor_in_Charge

    OmG LOL I think Japan will sort this out, is anyone really worried???

  • disqus_vBekJrf7g5

    Seriously, Japanese governments ‘initiatives’ are the gift that keeps on giving! It’s like having April 1st headlines EVERY DAY!

  • IceKing

    My grandfather used to be a simple company worker before he retired. He never received any university education, he just received training on the job before he started working. His older brother was a miner. No special people, but they both had families. The elder brother had a family of 10 children, the younger one had 3 children. Even if they had so much children, they still had quite a fortune in old age, even though they weren’t well educated people.
    My parents generation instead, two of the three daughters live in a relationship or are married, but dont have their own children. I am an only child.
    My mother even studied to become a teacher, my father works as a train driver.
    Both aren’t poor but not as rich as my grandparents.

    Nowadays most people work all their life but never receive a decent pension. All this stupid debate about female rights is just the perfect cover for the simple fact that most people work very hard but nowadays, even one hard working father isn’t enough for taking care of a family.
    Think about it! In not even 30 years most industrialized countries became that expensive that two people have to work so they can have children! And that is the situation in nowadays Germany.

    This effects especially Japan in various ways:
    Firstly, the education cost exploded more and more over the years. As a matter of fact, having children is becoming more and more an obstacle in Japanese society.

    Secondly, even alone, there are millions of people not even being able to earn enough so they have a decent life when they retire.

    Thirdly, as that is not enough, the social seggregation between well educated people and underperformers (where it is also important that the term “underperformer” changed drastically over the last years, meaning more and more people became “underperformers” even when, a few years ago, those people were just normal) increases a lot.
    Getting a good university degree means everything today, at least there is something like a chance for a good job.
    Being a normal graduate mostly means Freeter jobs, no adequate payment, bad working conditions or being part as one of the second-in-charge-companies that are basically the same as the mother company, except for the fact that the payment is half of the mother company’s workers.

    And that will provide much more social problems than women not being in high positions….

  • Toolonggone

    What Japan needs is strict accountability system on labor practice.

  • Matt Owen

    So hard to believe and accept that this is really happening today in a modern world, in a modern society, in the 21st Century. Staggering and Unbelievable!!

  • skillet

    Creepy is one of those words liberals throw around. THey are afraid of things that go bump in the night. “Creepy, patriarchy, rapey”.

    When you hear words like that, get ready for some weirdo doctrine.