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Women Empowerment Still A Dream in Japan?

Japan: The employment system in Japan is peculiar, in a way, that it does not shy away from outwardly “promoting” discriminatory practices and more so, the status quo has been like this for a long time.

This practice has become so common that a majority of the population had simply just accepted it and things would have continued like this, if not for the COVID-19 pandemic which bought the issue to bubble to the surface.

Due to the pandemic, a major workforce population primarily the non-regular workforce was either straightaway fired or was asked to temporarily take a leave of absence, without any pay off course. Now, the percentage of non-regular workers who were out of a job due to falling under the category non-regulars were mostly women.

Regular workers most commonly known as “seishain” receive advantages such as two annual bonuses which is often either worth at least one month’s salary or sometimes even more. They even get incentives that can even include housing. Moreover, they are nearly impossible to fire and lastly, they get a generous pension plan.

These women were out of job and their employers had denied them basic retirement allowance that was given to their counterparts who fell under the category of regular workers.

Out of these women, many filed lawsuits against their employers. However, the result had been the same for most women, denial of justice.

In the case of Setsuko Hikita who spent her working days selling snacks and newspapers in the bowels of Tokyo’s bustling metro system for more than ten years had been denied justifiable retirement pension on the basis of not being a regular worker.

What is even more heart wrenching is the fact that Setsuko who had started working at 1000 yen (ten years back), her pay after 10 long years was just 1050 yen.

There are a number of similar cases where women had been discriminated against overtly without any fear from law and order because even the Japanese law is discriminatory by leaving loopholes in the system and providing numerous chances for the weak to get exploited.

After PM Shinzo Abe, the current PM Yoshihide Suga had promised to change the current status of workforce discrimination and ensured that appropriate steps would be taken in order to curb this issue, however, with the recent ruling in the Setsuko Hikita case, things do not seem to go as per the statements made by the PM.

Now, we can only wait and see how things unfold in the next few years for the Japanese women workforce.

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