National

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

by Mizuho Aoki

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advisory panel on gender equality called on the nation Tuesday to change the male-oriented work culture based on the outdated family model in which men work long hours while women take care of the home.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The outdated corporate culture has made it difficult for women to fully execute their abilities, or for men to participate in homemaking and child rearing, the report says.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The century-old Civil Code provisions on families have been criticized as out of date and discriminatory against women.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.