Koga Says! Statement on the Passing of an Amendment to the Gender Equal Employment Opportunity Law at the House of Councilors Plenary Session
28 April 2006
The Gender Equal Employment Opportunity Law Amendment, which was under deliberation at the House of Councilors before being sent to the House of Representatives, was voted on today at the plenary session. The bill was unanimously passed with the incorporation of one revision, a supplementary provision that "(the law be) reviewed after five years from enactment."
In preparation for the bill's deliberation, RENGO has promoted activities at workplaces and localities that demand the following revisions:  explicitly state "work and life balance,"  prohibit "indirect discrimination" with examples in legislation,  make positive action (affirmative action) obligatory. During Diet deliberations, RENGO conducted demand actions against lawmakers while listening to the Diet debates and brought about an action rally in front of the Diet on April 25th that was attended by members from affiliated organizations and local RENGOs from across the nation.
During a debate in the Committee on Health, Welfare and Labor in the House of Councilors, the government presented such ideas as: "balancing work and life is crucial but we will try to actualize it through the utilization of the full extent of our laws and institutions (not by incorporating it into this law)"; "enumerating the criteria for indirect discrimination by ministerial ordinances establishes the foundation of administrative guidance and does not restrict judicial rulings. The theory of indirect discrimination is an expansive idea that is not limited to the enumerated criterion in ministerial ordinances and one which we will work hard to disseminate"; "There is a possibility of indirect discrimination in that most fixed-term contract workers are in fact women, but we intend to handle this issue as one of equal treatment."
However, what has not been clearly shown is which law will secure a balance between work and life; whether enumerating limited examples of indirect discrimination in legislation might lead to cases being refused at court; where cases of indirect discrimination not included in the criterion would be redressed; or where equal treatment for part-time workers will be put into effect. It is highly regrettable that the revisions RENGO sought were not implemented. On the other hand, we do recognize that we were able to have the revision that "(the law be) reviewed after five years from enactment" in that this will illuminate the various issues left behind, mainly around indirect discrimination, and for the fact that this will be a stepping stone for strategic moves for a future revision of the law.
Deliberations over the bill will move on to the House of Representatives. RENGO will continue to seek the realization of our demands for revisions and solutions to unresolved issues, beef up its lobbying efforts at the Diet and develop actions at workplaces and localities.