The Japanese Constitution is based on "respect for the individuals" and stipulates that "All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin (Article 14, Paragraph 1)." This article serves to guarantee equality under the law for all people. "Equality under the law" is the general principle that binds the legislature, the executive, and the judicature, and this principle is the supreme consideration in all affairs of state.
1. Right to Self-Determination
Refer to the items mentioned under Article 1, PartIIof the Third Periodic Report on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
2. Status and Rights of Foreigners
In accordance with the spirit of the Constitution, whose basic principle is the respect for fundamental human rights and the spirit of international cooperation, fundamental human rights are guaranteed to foreigners, except for such rights as suffrage which is extended only to Japanese nationals due to the nature of these rights. The Government makes efforts to guarantee the rights authorized in this covenant equally to foreigners as follows:
|Right to work and freedom to choose and change one's occupation
|Based on the Immigration-Control and Refugee-Recognition Act, the Government authorizes the entry and residence of foreigners who fall within any status of residence stipulated by the Act and meet the requirements (criteria) related to applicable status of residence. Consequently, the type of work and work period are, in effect, restricted for foreigners in Japan, which, however, is the rational result for foreigners not possessing the right to reside in Japan. These restrictions do not apply to foreigners who possess permanent residency status in Japan.
|The laws and regulations related to labour conditions, such as the Labour Standards Law, which are mentioned below, are applied to all workers employed in Japan, regardless of nationality.
|In accordance with the principle of equality between foreigners and Japanese nationals, the Government makes efforts to provide foreigners,legally residing in Japan with the same social security services as those for Japanese nationals, regardless of nationality, provided that the required payment is made. For example, Japanese nationality is not required to receive the benefits of the following systems:
|Right to education
|Any foreign child wishing to receive education shall be accepted at public schools in which compulsory education is provided. Brochures concerning school entrance are issued to parents of a child of school age who does not have Japanese nationality, so that this child will not be deprived of the opportunity of education. Furthermore, foreign students enjoy the same treatment as Japanese students with respect to free tuition, free textbooks, and school attendance assistance measures, based on the principle of equality between foreigners and Japanese nationals.
3. Employment of Foreigners as Civil Servants
|Japanese nationality is required for civil servants who participate in the exercise of public power or in the public-decision making; however, it is understood that Japanese nationality is not necessarily required for civil servants who do not engage in the above mentioned work.
|The above (1) applies to Korean residents in Japan in principle; moreover, as for teachers in public schools, in March 1991, it became possible for individuals not possessing Japanese nationality, including Korean residents in Japan, to be employed as teachers, based on the memorandum drawn up from the results of the so-called "Third Generation Consultations" which have been held between the Governments of Japan and the Republic of Korea since 1988. Those who pass the same examinations as Japanese nationals are employed as full-time instructors, without a limited period of appointment. The Government pay attention to their stability Attention is also paid to their stability and treatment.
4. Provisions Prohibiting Discrimination in Domestic Law
Provisions prohibiting discrimination in domestic law are as follows:
|General principles -- Article 14, Paragraph 1 of the Constitution
|"All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin."
|Qualification of members of the Diet and their electors -- Article 44 of the Constitution
|"The qualifications of members of both Houses and their electors shall be fixed by law. However, there shall be no discrimination because of race, creed, sex, social status, family origin, education, property or income."
|Treatment of national public employees -- Article 27 of the National Public Service Law
|"In the application of this law, all of the people shall be accorded equal treatment and shall not be discriminated against by reason of race, religious faith, sex, social status, family origin, or political opinions or affiliation except as provided in Article 38 (5) (a person who, on or after the date of the enforcement of the Constitution of Japan,formed or belonged to a political party or other organization which advocated the overthrow by force of the Constitution of Japan or the Government existing thereunder)."
|Treatment of local public employees -- Article 13 of the Local Public Service Law
|"In the application of this law, all of the people shall be accorded equal treatment and shall not be discriminated against by reason of race, religious faith, sex, social status, family origin, or political opinions or affiliation except as provided in Article 16 (5) (a person who, on or after the date of the enforcement of the Constitution of Japan,formed or belonged to a political party or other organization which advocated the overthrow by force of the Constitution of Japan or the Government existing thereunder)."
|Labour conditions -- Article 3 of the Labour Standards Law
|"An employer shall not discriminate against or in favour of any workers with respect to wages, working hours, or other working conditions by reason of the nationality,creed, or social status of any worker."
|Wages -- Article 4 of the Labour Standards Law
|"An employer shall not discriminate against a woman as compared with a man with respect to wages by reason of the worker being a woman."
|Opportunity and treatment in employment -- Article 11 of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law
|"An employer shall not discriminate against a woman worker in comparison with a man by reason of her being a woman."
|Right to join a trade union -- Article 5, Paragraph 2, (4) of the Trade Union Law
|"In no event shall any one be disqualified for union membership on the basis of race, religion, sex, social status or family origin."
|Employment exchange and vocational guidance -- Article 3 of the Employment Security Law
|"No one shall be discriminated against in employment exchange or vocational guidance, because of race, nationality, creed, sex, social status, family origin, previous employment, affiliation or non-affiliation with a trade union, etc."
|Right to education -- Article 3, Paragraph 1 of the Fundamental Law of Education
|"All people shall be given equal opportunity to receive an education according to their ability, and shall not be subject to educational discrimination because of race, creed, sex, social status, economic position or family origin."
5. Development Assistance to Other Countries
Japan takes the basic position that human rights are a universal value and a legitimate international concern common among all human beings. Japan believes that development assistance should contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights.Examples of Japanese development assistance to promote economic, social, and cultural rights in other countries are as follows:
|Assistance to realize right to work
|Japan considers technical and vocational training in developing countries as a top priority in development assistance. The importance of the development of human resources is clearly stated in the ODA (Official Development Assistance) Charter, which was adopted in the Cabinet in June 1992, based on the recognition that human resources are necessary and essential to realize economic rights in developing countries. From this point of view, Japan endeavors to implement technical transfers by such measures as the construction of training centers through grant aid, acceptance of trainees from other countries, provision of equipment and materials, dispatch of specialists and volunteers (Japan Overseas Cooperation volunteers), and conduct of development studies.
|Assistance to realize the right to enjoy good health
|Health and medical conditions are generally poor in developing countries. Many people there are threatened with death and suffer from various illnesses such as infectious diseases. Low living standards, malnutrition, and deplorable sanitary conditions increase the dangers to health. Japan provides its assistance in the health and medical field through such means as grant aid, loans, acceptance of trainees, and technical cooperation by dispatching specialists and volunteers, based on the concept that welfare should be common among human beings. In addition, Japan implements social infrastructure- building projects, including water systems, sewer systems and urban sanitation, as a part of the basic human needs projects of its ODA.
|Assistance to realize the fundamental right to be free from hunger
|A citizen's fundamental right to be free from hunger can be ensured by stabilizing the agriculture, forestry and fishery industries in a country. From this point of view, Japan emphasizes assistance to develop agriculture and agricultural villages in developing countries through agricultural infrastructure projects such as irrigation and drainage projects,farm products research and test projects, dissemination of information related to cultivation,projects for organizing agricultural villages, and projects for agricultural product distribution. Japan's ODA in this field has been implemented through such various forms as grant aid, loans, and technical cooperation.
|Japan also contributes to famine relief in the form of agricultural development assistance through general grants, marine grants, and disaster-relief grants.
|Assistance to realize the right to education
|The development of human resources is essential in countries seeking economic development. Generally, the development of the social service sector lags behind in developing countries and the educational infrastructure is particularly behind. Japan recognizes that underdevelopment of the educational infrastructure hinders the development of human resources, which are essential for economic development, and thus provides various kinds of assistance, both in terms of basic infrastructure and "software" such as human resources and capacity building.
|Japan actively accepts students from developing countries at institutions for higher education to contribute to their development in human resources. Japan comprehensively promotes various measures such as the Japanese government Scholarship System in order to provide higher education services in other parts of the world.Elementary and junior high schools, and facilities for social education are constructed in the form of grant aid and loans, while courses broadcast over the air and the training and re-education of school staff are also being improved and expanded . Along with these activities, Japan has supported grass-roots level projects such as those conducted by NGOs through facility construction and the provision of equipment and materials in the form of small-scale grant aid since 1989. In the technical cooperation field, many achievements have been observed in the field of education, especially through project-type technical cooperation and Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers. In particular, the activities of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers cover the basic education fields in which Japanese assistance has been heretofore relatively limited. These activities, in general, have been highly appreciated by the recipient countries.
6. Public Welfare
The Constitution stipulates that human rights may be restricted for the sake of the "public welfare" (Articles 12 and 13). The concept of "public welfare" is strictly interpreted as the principle of immanent restriction, which coordinates mutual fundamental human rights to enable the human rights of each individual to be equally respected. Therefore, public welfare is not an irrational restriction of human rights.
In the event that the government imposes restrictions on human rights, these restrictions must be in accordance with laws and regulations; consequently, unlimited restrictions are not possible, as restrictions are limited to "rational considerations." The standard by which this rationality is judged is referred to as the "public welfare."
7. Measures for the Socially Disadvantaged
|Measures for persons with disabilities
|Japan enacted the "Government Action Plan for Persons with Disabilities," in 1995, which sets the following seven goals to implement the "New Long-Term Programme for Government Measures for Persons with Disabilities," which was enacted in 1993. The Action Plan is based on the principles of rehabilitation, which aims to restore all human rights to those in all stages of the life cycle, and of normalization, which strives to create a society where the daily lives and activities of persons with disabilities are equal in quality to those without disabilities.
|Measures for elderly persons
|The average life span of a Japanese is about 80 years, the longest in the world.According to the population estimates by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, the percentage of population of 65 years of age and over is expected to reach 26.9% by the year 2020, which suggests a seriously aged society of the future, in which one out of every four citizens will be a senior citizen.
|In order to make this aged society of the 21st century one in which all people are healthy, have something to live for, and are able to live their whole life with peace of mind, the development of an appropriate social and economic system for a society with an undeniably long life span is an urgent challenge.
|Under these circumstances, the Government of Japan established the "Ten Year Strategy for the Promotion of Health and Welfare for Elderly Persons (Gold Plan)" in 1989 (from 1990 to 1999), which outlines the numerical targets for the necessary improvement of health and welfare services. This plan aims to ensure that elderly persons can live peacefully in their own homes or communities as long as possible, and that they are provided with the appropriate facilities when they have difficulties in living in their own homes. In this way, basic systematic improvements to public services in the area of health and welfare will be promoted for the elderly. Since 1990, the promotion of the Gold Plan has been one of Japan's most important tasks. However, it became clear in the Local Health and Welfare Plans for the Elderly in 1993 that it is necessary to plan much wider-scale improvements to the health and welfare services for the elderly than were outlined in the Gold Plan. (Local Health and Welfare Plans for the Elderly are plans laid out by local public organizations in order to systematically promote health and welfare measures for the elderly.) In addition, various measures for the health and welfare of the elderly had been already implemented after the inauguration of the Gold Plan. Therefore,in 1994, the Government completely revised the plan and established the "New Gold Plan."
|In the New Gold Plan, the Government has raised its targets for the improvement of basic services by 1999 and raised overall project costs to 9 trillion yen; furthermore, it has newly established the basic framework for measures to be introduced in the future.
Table 1. Improvement Objectives for the end of 1999
|The Government is making smooth progress on basic improvements of services based on the New Gold Plan although this success has varied among the measures undertaken.
|However, hand in hand with the rapid aging of Japanese society, a rapid increase is seen in the number of elderly people who require care. The general issue of care, coupled with the need for long-term care and an increase in nuclear families, has become a major cause of uncertainty in the lives of the elderly.
|In response to this situations, the Law on Long-term Care Insurance was established in December 1997 in order to revise the existing care system for the elderly, which distinguished between medical treatment and welfare, and to establish a fair and user-friendly universal social support system, and the Government is preparing for the implementation in 2000.
|With the introduction of public care insurance for the elderly, the Government will duly implement the New Gold Plan and support it for the time being. In particular, priority will be put on areas with insufficient services such as large cities and less populated areas to improve basic infrastructure. The New Gold Plan provides appropriate services by further improving the basis of care services both at home and in care facilities.Furthermore, once care insurance for the elderly is introduced, the Government expects increase of the necessary services as the demand for this insurance is clearly evident. Japan continues to study the basic infrastructure for the improvement of necessary care services.
|Measures for children and families
|Fewer births and a decrease in the total fertility rate have been apparent in recent years. Because the low fertility rate is causing a trend of having fewer children, there is consequently a concern that it is difficult to instill independence and socialization in children because they now have less contact with other children.
|To overcome these circumstances, national and local governments are channelling their energies towards the building of a "Child Support Society" in which the company, workplace, local society, in addition to national and local governments, vigorously implement child support measures. In December 1994, the Government established the "Basic Direction for Future Child Rearing Support Measures (Angel Plan)" and is generally and systematically promoting policies for child support throughout the society.
|Finally, the Government has established the "Five-Year Project on Urgent Nursery Measures" as part of the Angel Plan and has been working towards the expansion of infant and long-term child-care to respond to the increasing diversity in nursery needs associated with women's greater participation in the work place in recent years.
8. Measures for the Realization of the Gender-Equal Society
Headquarters for the Promotion of Gender Equality, which is composed of entire Cabinet Ministers, chaired by the Prime Minister as its President, and with the Chief Cabinet Secretary, Minister for Gender Equality as its Vice President, formulated the new national plan of action, "Plan for Gender Equality 2000" in December 1996, and is promoting the comprehensive and systematic implementation of the policy measures towards the realization of the gender-equal society (in which women and men shall be given equal opportunities to participate voluntarily in activities at all fields as equal partners and shall be able to enjoy political, economic, social and cultural benefits as well as to take equal responsibilities).
In April 1997, the Council for Gender Equality was established on a legal basis as a permanent body. It is currently under deliberation of the fundamental law for the creation of the gender-equal society and other basic measures thereof, as well as the in-depth study on matters related to the violence against women.
9. International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
On 15 December 1995, Japan acceded to the "International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination." In compliance with the purpose of this convention, Japan is making every effort to eliminate all forms of discrimination.
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