Government must take steps to improve working conditions of all workers: Akahata on gender-equal society

The government study group has published an interim report on measures to support women and men to harmonize work with child-raising. Akahata's editorial on April 16 said:

In Japan, working conditions are less supportive for workers to harmonize work with child care compared to other industrialized countries of the West. Many women workers have to quit their jobs when they get married, pregnant, and give birth. They also quit when they find it difficult to rear their child while working.

Working hours need to be shortened

Measures to support workers to harmonize work with child-raising are "important and urgent requirements," as the interim report says, to realize a gender-equal society.

But as a concrete step the interim report calls for a change in corporate management and proposes a five-day maternity leave for men. Workers have a keen demand for an improved child-care leave system and introduction of a leave to take care of their sick children. These must be added to the proposal.

A cut in working hours and the government control over long working hours are what workers urgently call for. A government study has found that more than half of fathers and about 25 percent of mothers have only 30 or less minutes a day to spend with their children at home.

Workers in Japan are forced to work excessively long hours with demanding work schedules. It is an urgent need of all workers for their working hours to be shortened. This is also necessary to improve the situation which the interim report points out: Japanese male workers spend much less time than workers in other industrialized countries taking care of their children and doing housework.

To establish a society where all workers can harmonize work and child-rearing is a social need as well as a way to solve the low birthrate problem. Such a society can be achieved not only by improving child care systems but also by solving the problems related to working conditions and employment.

To ensure that men and women share responsibilities in work and child care, the working environment should be improved, gender equality in all aspects of employment be guaranteed, and the problems of unemployment and unstable employment be solved.

The government study group will publish its final report this coming June. We hope that as much public opinion as possible be taken into consideration to propose truly effective measures to help workers harmonize work and child-raising. (end)