Comprehensive measures for equal employment opportunities and child-care support under way
The Equal Employment, Children and Families Bureau is carrying out comprehensive measures to create a society where both men and women can jointly participate in activities at their places of work and at home as well as in their community. These include measures designed to secure equal employment opportunities for men and women and their fair treatment, to support having a family life and a career, and to promote part-time work, family work and teleworking. The bureau is also promoting measures for the welfare of children and families, health insurance medical care and various allowances - specifically aimed at supporting child-care by offering nursing services to cope with the rapidly declining birth rate, preventing child abuse, helping fatherless families and widows becoming independent, assisting in the sound growth of children, providing child-support allowance and working for mother-child health insurance medical care.
Securing equal employment opportunity and fair treatment
It is an important task to create an employment environment where women can make full use of their abilities free from sexual discrimination not only for the benefit of working women but also for the maintenance of vitality in economic society.
The Equal Employment, Children and Families Bureau gives guidance to companies on employment management and seeks to promptly and amicably settle disputes between female workers and business owners through arbitration by the equal employment mediation committee, so that men and women are given equal treatment in promotion, dismissal and other matters.
The bureau offers information to those in charge of personnel affairs and labour management at companies and hold seminars for the staff in order to encourage positive corporate action to remove the existing gap between male and female workers, which is typically described as " most of managers are male."
Seminars and counseling are held at "Hall of Future for Women and Work (in Minato Ward, Tokyo) to help women make the most of their abilities, along with such activities as support for women entrepreneurs and providing information on working women.
To make work compatible with child-care and nursing of family members
In order for workers to lead a fulfilling career life through their lifetime amid the aging of the population and the declining birth rate, it has become extremely important to create an environment where they can make good use of their abilities and experiences while combining work with child-care and the nursing of family members.
In accordance with the law on child-care and nursing care leave, various measures for such a need are being implemented in order to (1) create an environment where it is easier for workers to take child-care or nursing care leave and to return to work, (2) develop an environment where it is easier for workers, who have children and other family members to care of, to continue their jobs, and (3) support outplacement for those who want to return to work after retirement for child-care or nursing care.
Improvement of employment management for part-time workers
To make part-time work a more attractive style of employment, a comprehensive measure is being implemented to promote the welfare of part-time workers in accordance with the law on part-time work and through efforts to thoroughly familiarize them with the guidelines covered by the law.
Promotion of measures for teleworking
The Equal Employment, Children and Families Bureau is promoting support for teleworkers* by providing them with necessary information and establishing a counseling system, while drawing up guidelines to ensure appropriate teleworking and give teleworkers a thorough knowledge and understanding of their jobs.
* "Teleworkers" are those who do free-lance work at home using information and communication equipment.
Promotion of measure for family work
To improve the working conditions of family workers, efforts are being made to encourage the use of the family work notebook, ensure payment of labor costs, set a minimum labor cost and make it known to family workers, and promote safety and hygiene at their workplace.
Declining birth rate and countermeasure
The declining birth rate means a fall in the number of children. A total specific birth rate, the total number of children a woman bear during her lifetime, declined to 1.38 in 1998, breaking the record low level.
A major cause of the falling birth rate is a rise in the number of unmarried women against a background of increasing burden on women resulting from their work and child-care. The declining birth rate is expected to have a serious effect on the economy and society as it leads to a decrease in the work force and an increase in the ratio of the elderly in the total population.
It is important to look at this problem from the viewpoint that we must ease or remove women's burden of both work and child-care or child-care only, develop various environments where they can raise children free from worry, and build a society where they can have a dream and hope for their family and child-care.
Measure against the declining birth rate
From such a viewpoint, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare is promoting a series of measures against the declining birth rate. In consultation with other ministries and agencies concerned, the ministry worked out a "concrete plan to implement a priority measure for the declining birth rate (New Angel Plan) at the end of 1999. The ministry is also scheduled to set a target for the improvement of the child-care service and the mother-child health insurance medical care system by fiscal 2004 and to work toward that goal as planned.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare awards "Special grant for measures against the declining birth rate" (a total of 200 billion budget for fiscal 1999) to support such efforts being made by the local governments according to the actual condition of the local communities. The ministry is also promoting an anti-declining birth rate measure designed to obtain a nationwide understanding and support by holding "National conference for the promotion of measures against the declining birth rate."
Furthermore, the ministry is conducting public relations to enlighten people on the joint responsibility of the father and mother for child-care and the importance and the joy of child-care through mass media such as posters, TV commercials and newspaper advertisements.
Promotion of measures for children and families
The Equal Employment, Children and Families Bureau is promoting various measures for the declining birth rate, equal employment, children and families.
To ensure that children can enter day-care centers without waiting, the ministry is promoting the acceptance of younger children of 0 to 2 years of age into the day-care centers; home nursing; holiday nursing; and temporary nursing as well as the relaxation of rules concerning the day nurseries.
Another measure being implemented aims to extend the ages covered by the child-support allowance system and to lessen the financial burden of families busy with the care of their children.
In addition to the task of reducing the death rate for pregnant women in the field of mother-child health, the bureau is tackling problems with dioxin in mother's milk and the prevention of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) as well as those involving medical aid in reproduction such as artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilization.
Measures against child abuse
The Equal Employment, Children and Families Bureau is also addressing the problem of child abuse, which has become a social issue in recent years. To prevent child abuse, the ministry is working on various measures for its early detection and appropriate actions at an early stage, which include its efforts to strengthen the functions of child-counseling offices, enhance cooperation with other ministries and agencies concerned, and promote campaigns to enlighten the public about child abuse.