• SHARE

The government is set to promote the wider use of maiden names as it attempts to create a more female-friendly work environment at a time when the nation’s labor force is expected to shrink.

The Internal Affairs and Communication Ministry will revamp its systems in a move that will allow married people to print their maiden names alongside their legal family names on My Number identification cards and residence cards, a ministry official said Monday.

Such official cards bearing both names could reduce the trouble many married couples face in the workplace while also encouraging more companies to allow employees to continue using their maiden names after marriage, the Cabinet Office said.

The Civil Code provision that essentially forces a couple to choose a single family name when registering their marriage has often caused businesswomen inconvenience in the workplace, where many are known professionally by their maiden name.

While married women often opt to continue using their maiden name at work, they must still change their names when it comes to official matters such as social security documents, bank accounts and driver’s licenses.

Such changes require a visit to a municipal office to obtain the necessary official documents.

While men sometimes are forced to jump through these hoops, it is mostly women who are saddled with the burden. Surveys have shown that more than 95 percent of couples choose to adopt the husband’s family name upon marriage.

Under the new plan, instead of having to visit a municipal office for the necessary documents, the My Number and residence cards are expected to be able to be used as proof of identity.

Also, some firms ban married female employees from continuing to use their maiden names due to the perceived complexity involved in having two separate surnames. The government will now encourage those firms to be more flexible with the new cards.

To pay for the system upgrades so new cards can be issued, the ministry is expected to include budget requests for fiscal 2017, which starts next April, media reports said. The government is also set to revise related laws to allow these changes, the ministry official said.

While these changes may address some problems, the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears to have no plans to tackle what many believe is the root cause behind much of these problems: an outdated Civil Code that forbids the use of separate names for married couples.

The use of separate names has long been a controversial issue, with conservatives saying it would destroy the country’s traditional family system. Critics of the current Civil Code provision say it is a violation of an individual’s fundamental rights.

In 2011, five people filed a lawsuit against the government, arguing the provision requiring a single surname violates the Constitution.

Last year, the Supreme Court rejected the damages suit, declaring the Civil Code constitutional.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.

SUBSCRIBE NOW