Women’s group aims to narrow wage gap

“We will point out that Japan needs to create a law to guarantee equal pay for equal jobs and establish a system to evaluate employees without gender bias,” said Shizuko Koedo, chairwoman of the [Working Women’s Network] which has 800 members nationwide.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, full-time female workers in 2007 earned on average 66.9 percent of what men earned.

This gap can be attributed to the relative scarcity of women in managerial positions. Women also tend to have shorter careers with companies, often leaving when they marry or have children.

But Koedo said the wage gap is also being caused by a discriminatory dual-track career system that usually places men on the fast track to the executive suite and women on the path to low-paying clerical positions.

The system has been criticized by experts as an indirect form of discrimination against women.

If there is a law that clearly stipulates the equal pay for equal work concept and employers evaluate workers more fairly, indirect discrimination through the dual-track system could be prevented, Koedo said.

To that end, the WWN plans to submit the report and lobby CEDAW [U.N. Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women] members in Geneva in November, when they hold a working group meeting.

CEDAW requires member countries to report on working conditions for women every four years and to issue recommendations for improvements.

The sixth and latest report compiled by Japan and submitted to CEDAW in April 2008 will be reviewed in New York in July 2009.

In the report, the government claims that the equal pay for equal work rule has been implemented according to Article 4 of the Labor Standard Law, which bans sexually discriminatory wages. However, it admits there remains a wage gap between men and women and encourages employers to take action to narrow the gap.