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Gender Minister Inoguchi: Make it easier for women to work to avoid population crisis
Japan needs to make it easier for women to enter the work force and have a family at the same time in order to avoid further declines in its population, a government official said Thursday.
Kuniko Inoguchi, the recently named minister for gender equality, said companies need to respond more to the needs of working mothers by granting child leave for fathers and not encouraging pregnant women to quit.
"If you decide to have a family, and eventually you decide to go back into society, you're never fully employed and never fully paid," Inoguchi told a small group of reporters.
"So the opportunity cost for many women is very high," she added. "My suggestion is that we have better policies for a work and life balance."
Japan's population of 127 million began to fall for the first time on record last year, fanning worries that future generations of workers won't generate enough tax revenue to care for the growing legions of elderly.
At the center of the population debate is the question of how to encourage women to have more babies. Japan's average fertility rate of 1.29 babies per woman is one of the lowest in the world.
Japanese companies, however, typically expect long hours from workers, and many women with careers feel that they cannot meet the demands of both work and family life and must choose one or the other.
There are other disincentives to having children. Housing is crowded and expensive, education is pricey and husbands' long work hours mean that women have to raise children largely on their own.
"There's not enough support for families, for working mothers," Inoguchi said. "Not many men are taking child leave, so all the burden falls on women. And corporations aren't necessarily sympathetic."
Inoguchi said a leading problem was the pressure pregnant women feel to quit their jobs. She said the government would submit a bill in parliament this coming session to outlaw such discrimination.
"By becoming pregnant, you're pressured to leave," she said. "It's like bullying." (AP)
Gov't to consider shouldering childbirth costs to fight dwindling birthrate
January 19, 2006
Japan encourages companies to become family friendly
Last Updated Thu, 19 Jan 2006 08:57:15 EST
Japan's falling birthrate has prompted the social issues minister to call on companies to implement family-friendly policies.
It's crucial that companies believe being pro-family will help them, Kuniko Inoguchi, state minister for gender equality and social affairs, said Thursday.
Policymakers worry Japan's falling birthrate could result in a smaller workforce supporting a growing number of retirees, putting a serious dent in the economy.
For the first time since the end of the Second World War in 1945, Japan's population shrank in the year ended in October.
The fertility rate, or the average number of children born per woman, fell to a postwar low of 1.2888 in 2004, from 1.2905 in 2003. Demographers say a rate of 2.1 is needed to keep a population stable.
Inoguchi compared the push to get companies to adopt family-friendly practices to encouraging them to become more environmentally friendly.
Japanese companies once strongly opposed environmental responsibility, but now embrace it and even use it as an advertising tool.
"In my view, at this point, it is probably more important to foster a structural reform of mindset," she said. "What I have to do as a political leader is to make it clear that this is a valued element in society, to be kind to families."
Inoguchi plans to propose policies by June which could include having the government pay the total costs related to giving birth. Currently, public health insurance gives mothers a lump sum for each baby.
She also wants to make it easier for mothers to take child-care leave.
Japan firms must be 'family friendly' - minister
Thu Jan 19, 2006 4:49 AM ET
TOKYO (Reuters) - Making Japanese companies "family friendly" is one of the most important steps needed to fight a falling birthrate, the social issues minister said on Thursday.
Japan's population shrank in the year to October for the first time since 1945, and the baby shortage has become an problem for policymakers who fear a smaller workforce supporting a growing number of pensioners would hurt the world's number two economy.
Kuniko Inoguchi, state minister for gender equality and social affairs, told reporters while policies are essential, the most important thing will be convincing companies being pro-family will help them.
"In my view, at this point, it is probably more important to foster a structural reform of mindset," she said.
This would be similar to the shift made by companies to be more environment-friendly, a position once strongly opposed but now such a plus for many it has become a key advertising tool.
"What I have to do as a political leader is to make it clear that this is a valued element in society, to be kind to families," Inoguchi added.
Inoguchi said she hopes to draw up several policy proposals by June, which may include having the government pay the total costs of birth instead of the present scheme, in which public health insurance gives a mother a lump-sum amount per baby.
Inoguchi also plans to submit a proposal to make it easier for women to take childcare leave to the session of parliament that starts on Friday.
Japan's fertility rate -- the average number of children a women bears -- fell to a postwar low of 1.2888 in 2004 from 1.2905 in 2003. A domestic newspaper report late last year said it was likely to have dipped further, to about 1.26, in 2005.
Demographers say a fertility rate of 2.1 is needed to keep a population stable.
The New York Times
January 19, 2006
Women's Place, Revisited
The election on Sunday of Michelle Bachelet as Chile's president completes a three-continent long jump for women in politics. Ms. Bachelet is the first woman elected president in Latin America who is not the widow of a political strongman. On Monday, when Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was inaugurated as president of Liberia, she became Africa's first woman to be elected president. And with Angela Merkel's election as chancellor of Germany, a woman now leads Western Europe's most populous nation.
Ms. Bachelet, a socialist, an agnostic and a single mother, won the presidency of Chile, Latin America's most socially conservative country, with the help of a compelling personal story. She is the daughter of an air force general who died in prison during Gen. Augusto Pinochet's rule after months of torture, and she herself was imprisoned and tortured. When she was named defense minister in the current government, she was put in charge of a military still very much shaped by Mr. Pinochet. She brought an unpretentious style to the post, and won a reputation for toughness without rancor.
These new chief executives are not the first women to lead major democracies. Margaret Thatcher of Britain and Indira Gandhi of India were vastly powerful politicians and global ideological icons as well. Golda Meir was the inspirational leader of Israel, a nation surrounded by hostile Arab neighbors that refused to concede its right to exist.
But the women's successes in Liberia, Chile and Germany are being celebrated in part because this kind of achievement is still rare. In most countries, women have yet to achieve the critical mass at the lower levels of government that will be necessary if their ascension is to be seen as part of the normal course of politics.
The recent elections are important because they stand in stark contrast with the other route women have taken to power: picking up the standard of a murdered father or husband. Most of those dynastic women have brought few qualifications to the job and have been dreadful leaders. Mrs. Gandhi was an exception. She won office as the daughter of the independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru, but transcended her status as a dynastic successor as a powerful - sometimes too powerful - leader.
The women who are now leading nations are the most independent and accomplished group of female leaders ever collected - with the possible exception of when Elizabeth I dined alone.
World census fails to capture women's inequality
Wed 18 Jan 2006 4:36 PM ET
(Adds details from news conference, paragraphs 4, 11)
By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Many developing nations are making economic, health and education decisions without knowing how many girls or boys are born or how many work or die, according to a U.N. report released on Wednesday.
Some countries, like Colombia, Nigeria, Peru and Uzbekistan, have not conducted a census since 1995, while Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan and Vietnam have registered less than 90 percent of all births.
Populous India and China, along with many African states, are among the nations that did not report the sex of infants born between 1995 and 2003, the survey said.
India has submitted regular estimates while China has reported births by sex only once in 1989.
The 165-page report by the U.N. Statistic Division, entitled "The World's Women 2005, Progress in Statistics" is a follow-up to U.N. resolutions urging nations to provide census data, especially on gender, rather than conduct spot checks.
"The whole goal of the improvement of the quality of life worldwide is dependent on knowing the situation of women, men, the elderly, infants," said Mary Chamie, chief of the U.N. demographics and social statistics branch.
"We need it for questions on globalization, for questions on trade, on understanding of economic production, education, getting vaccinated and for that matter, reproduction," she said in an interview. "It's like going to the doctor, but the doctor never examines us."
The survey analyzed the reporting of statistics in five areas: census of the entire population, birth registration, births by sex, population by sex and age and economic activity by sex and age.
On the plus side, 81 countries representing 28 percent of the world population completed all five surveys. The largest of them are the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Iran and the Philippines.
Fourteen nations completed none of the surveys, including Afghanistan, Angola, Cameroon, Chad, North Korea, Eritrea, Lebanon, Liberia and Sudan, many suffering from war or civil strife. And over 100 countries are not reporting complete figures on birth, deaths and economic activity.
In Africa, only 14 out of 55 nations reported births by sex. In Asia, statistics on the sex of newborn infants cover only 19 percent of the entire population.
And a total of 26 countries did not conduct a census at all over the last 10 years, representing 10 percent of the world's population, Chamie told a news conference.
For many countries, producing even the most basic statistics on the labor force remains a challenge, the report said.
While 108 countries surveyed reported data on wages by major industry groups, less than a quarter distinguished between men and women.
"In order for governments to plan and evaluate programs, they require information on the economic activity of the population," the report said. This includes data on employment, unemployment, occupation and wages by sex as well as age.
Votes for, against and abstentions are classified by political groupings
(Listing is correct to 18:30 CET and includes corrections)
For - Total Votes: 468
ALDE: Alvaro, Andrejevs, Andria, Beaupuy, Bonino, Bourlanges, Bowles, Busk, Carlshamre, Cavada, Chatzimarkakis, Chiesa, Cornillet, Davies, Degutis, Deprez, Dičkutė, Di Pietro, Drčar Murko, Duff, Duquesne, Ek, Fourtou, Gentvilas, Geremek, Gibault, Griesbeck, Guardans Cambó, Hall, Harkin, Hennis-Plasschaert, in 't Veld, Jäätteenmäki, Jensen, Juknevičienė, Kacin, Karim, Klinz, Koch-Mehrin, Krahmer, Kułakowski, Laperrouze, Lax, Ludford, Lynne, Maaten, Malmström, Manders, Matsakis, Morillon, Mulder, Newton Dunn, Neyts-Uyttebroeck, Nicholson of Winterbourne, Ortuondo Larrea, Oviir, Pannella, Polfer, Ries, Riis-Jørgensen, Samuelsen, Savi, Sbarbati, Schuth, Staniszewska, Starkevičiūtė, Sterckx, Szent-Iványi, Wallis, Watson
Against - Total Votes 149
IND/DEM: Borghezio, Grabowski, Krupa, Pęk, Piotrowski, Rogalski, Salvini, Sinnott, Speroni, Tomczak, Zapałowski
Abstention - Total 41
ALDE: Budreikaitė, Cocilovo, Costa, Lehideux, Letta, Pistelli, Procacci, Prodi, Takkula, Toia, Väyrynen
CORRECTIONS TO VOTES
Marie-Noëlle Lienemann, Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines, Patrick Gaubert
Citizens’ rights - 18-01-2006 - 14:26
MEPs urge Member States to ensure respect for same-sex partnerships
Member States need to ensure that "same-sex partners enjoy the same respect, dignity and protection as the rest of society" urged MEPs in a resolution condemning homophobia in Europe.
Following "a series of worrying events which has recently taken place in a number of EU Member States, (...) from banning gay pride or equality marches to leading political and religious leaders' inflammatory/hate/threatening language (...)", MEPs strongly condemn discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. They also urge the Commission to start infringement proceedings against those Member States that fail to implement the directive on equal treatment in employment and occupation, and to consider the use of criminal penalties in cases of violation.
The Commission is also asked to put forward proposals guaranteeing the freedom of movement of "EU citizens and their family members and registered partners of either gender". One of the main complaints of homosexual associations and NGOs is that registered homosexual couples from Member States where same-sex marriages or partnerships are legal loose all their rights as official partners - most importantly the right of family reunification - when they move to another Member State which does not recognize same-sex couples.
EU countries should also enact legislation to end discrimination faced by same-sex partners as regards inheritance rights, property arrangements, tenancy, pensions, tax, social security. Finally, Parliament urges Member States to step up the fight against homophobia through education and to fully recognise homosexuals as targets and victims of the Nazi regime.
REF.: 20060113IPR04270 Contact:
The European Parliament: Homophobia in Europe Vote
UK Gay News has extracted from various official sources the Joint Motion for a Resolution and the actual votes of MEPs on the Resolution so that those interested can read on one page the relevant information on this vital vote to gays and lesbian throughout the European Union.
For detailed information in all the official languages of the EU, visit the European Parliament website and select the language required.
1. RC - B6-0025/2006 - Homophobia in Europe - Resolution 18/01/2006 12:50:15
JOINT MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION
The European Parliament,
– having regard to international and European human rights obligations, such as those contained in the UN conventions on human rights and in the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,
– having regard to European Union provisions on human rights, and notably to the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as to Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty on European Union,
– having regard to Article 13 of the Treaty establishing the European Community which invests the European Union with the power EU to adopt measures to combat discrimination based, inter alia, on sexual orientation, and to promote the principle of equality,
– having regard to Directive 2000/43/EC and Directive 2000/78/EC prohibiting direct or indirect discrimination on grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation,
– having regard to Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which prohibits 'any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation',
– having regard to Rule 103(4) of its Rules of Procedure,
A. whereas homophobia can be defined as an irrational fear of and aversion to homosexuality and of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people based on prejudice, similar to racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and sexism,
1. Strongly condemns any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation;
2. Calls on Member States to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are protected from homophobic hate speech and violence and ensure that same-sex partners enjoy the same respect, dignity and protection as the rest of society;
3. Urges Member States and the Commission to firmly condemn homophobic hate speech or incitement to hatred and violence, and to ensure that freedom of demonstration – guaranteed by all human rights treaties - is respected in practice;
4. Calls on the Commission to ensure that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in all sectors is prohibited by completing the anti-discrimination package based on Article 13 either by proposing new directives or by proposing a general framework, covering all grounds for discrimination and all sectors;
5. Urges Member States and the Commission to step up the fight against homophobia through education – such as campaigns against homophobia in schools, in universities and in the media - as well as through administrative, judicial and legislative means;
6. Reiterates its position with regard to 'Year 2007 - Equality for All' that the Commission must ensure that all forms of discrimination referred to in Article 13 of the Treaty and in Article 2 of the Decision establishing the Year are addressed and dealt with equally, as referred to in the European Parliament's report on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and the Council on the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All (2007) - Towards a Just Society, and reminds the European Commission of its promise to closely monitor this matter and to report to Parliament;
7. Urges the Commission to ensure that all Member States have transposed and are correctly implementing Directive 2000/78/EC (establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation) and to start infringement proceedings against those Member States that fail to do so; in addition, calls on the Commission to ensure that the annual report on the protection of fundamental rights in the EU includes full and comprehensive information on the incidence of homophobic hate crimes and violence in Member States;
8. Calls on all Member States to take any other action they deem appropriate in the fight against homophobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and to promote and implement the principle of equality in their society and legal order;
9. Welcomes steps taken in several Member States recently to improve the position of LGBT people and resolves to organise a seminar for the exchange of good practice on 17 May (International Day against Homophobia);
10. Reiterates its request that the European Commission put forward proposals guaranteeing freedom of movement for Union citizens and their family members and registered partners of either gender, as referred to in Parliament's resolution of 14 October 2004 on the future of the area of freedom, security and justice;
11. Calls on the Member States concerned to finally fully recognise homosexuals as targets and victims of the Nazi regime;
12. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to Commission and to the Governments of the Member States and candidate and applicant countries.