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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 July 3 - 9  > Abe rejects dual surname system saying, ‘It will hardly contribute to economic growth’
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2019 July 3 - 9 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Abe rejects dual surname system saying, ‘It will hardly contribute to economic growth’

July 3, 2019
Asked about the necessity of the introduction of a selective dual surname system, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on June 30 said that it will not contribute to economic growth, turning his back on people’s demand.

He made this remark on an online discussion program hosted by the video-sharing website “niconico”. As the head of the Liberal Democratic Party, Abe had a debate with leaders of other political parties with the House of Councilors election campaign scheduled to start next week.

During the debate, Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan chief Edano Yukio said that the introduction of a selective dual surname system is essential to promote women’s social participation and asked Abe whether he agrees with this view. Abe in reply said, “Rather than being concerned about the dual surname system, I implement measures to stimulate the economy.” Asked by the program host if Abe means the response to be negative, Abe replied that the separate surname system “has nothing to contribute to economic growth.”

A survey by the Justice Ministry in 2017 found that 67% of the respondents support a law revision to allow married couples to decide whether to use the same surname or separate surnames.

Sakamoto Yoko of the Information Network for Amending the Civil Code said that to make a decision on the use of surnames is a matter of human rights. She pointed out that one in four married female workers keeps using her maiden name with the aim of reducing inconsistencies in their work life.

The Japanese Communist Party proposes to amend the Civil Code in order to stop forcing married couples to use the same surname.

Lawyer Sakka Tomoshi, who is engaged in a lawsuit seeking the introduction of a separate surname system, said that Abe’s attitude contradicts the government’s recognition that in order to cope with labor shortages due to Japan’s greying population and the declining birthrate, it is necessary to increase the number of female workers by improving working and social environments.

Sakka pointed out that there is no doubt that the lack of a separate surname system poses an obstacle to the empowerment of women. For example, he said, many female researchers after marriage need to use the registered surname which is in most cases different from their maiden names when publishing academic papers, and this will make it difficult for the papers to be recognized as written by the same authors. In other cases, Sakka added, female workers often have trouble in maintaining business ties with their clients because of the change in surnames. He also noted that obliging married people to change their surnames inevitably requires them to reveal their personal information on marital status.

Sakka stressed that it is usually wives, not husbands, who change their surnames and that as a result, far more women than men face great disadvantages because of the absence of a dual surname system. He said that the introduction of this system will not decrease the number of female workers.

Past related articles:
> Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly adopts petition to introduce selective dual surname system [June 20, 2019]
> Tokyo court drops claim of plaintiffs seeking dual surnames [March 26, 2019]

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