Gender Equal Month Symposium

For Fundamental Reform of Equal Employment Opportunity Law

08 June 2004
On June 1, a symposium was conducted with one hundred participants under the themes of "Gender Equal Treatment during Employment" and "Bringing about Gender Equality." At the symposium, an explanation of an outline of an interim summary by a RENGO commission reviewing reform of the Gender Equal Employment Opportunity Law (chaired by Chuo University Law School Professor Shozo Yamada) was presented and a panel discussion was held. Also, the results of a fact-finding survey conducted in more than one thousand workplaces with the cooperation of trade unions were reported on and the symposium endorsed the situations and problems encountered after the launch of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law.

In order to realize radical reform of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law which would involve the prohibition of indirect discrimination, the symposium called on audience members to support activities at their working places and to make this goal a mainstream goal for trade union activities.

Photo: Masako Uemoto Vice President of RENGO says Photo: Masako Uemoto Vice President of RENGO says
The panel discussion was attended by Professor Yamada, chair of the commission reviewing the reform, NPO Dispatched Labor Network President (attorney-at-law) Mami Nakano, Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of Law Lecturer Michiko Aizawa, the latter two are commission members, and RENGO Assistant General Secretary Seiko Hayashi who acted as coordinator. After Chairman Yamada explained the idea of an interim summary outline by the commission, member Aizawa offered a definition of indirect discrimination emphasizing the effectiveness of including "prohibition of indirect discrimination" into the regulations. Member Nakano pointed out that "the biggest problem is the high number of workplaces where when one must suffer discrimination or be stopped from working there." She said "the fact that we know there is discrimination but cannot correct it suggests that the entire system itself has problems."

Several opinions expressed from the floor included the following. "I am working as a subway engineer and women workers are prohibited to work inside the tunnels. Due to this I am unable to learn cutting edge technology and even my job categories are limited, which is a shame." Also, presented from the floor were reports on job sites such as the following: "Out of all the claims reported to labor consultants, those regarding outright discrimination based simply on being a woman are overwhelmingly the greatest in number."

Finally, Assistant General Secretary Hayashi stated that "the problem is that quite a few trade unions sense that discrimination exists but do nothing to improve the situation. Figuring out how to carry forward this activity is where we must begin." She continued to call on participants saying "in every workplace we want you to expose the real conditions of discrimination, show everyone that we are creating movements to reform the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, and to create a wave of momentum with everyone’s power. Let’s place gender equality promotion activities in the mainstream of trade union activities," and ended the discussion.