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The “business and human rights” principle cares gender pay gap


September 2018

Emi Omura, Attorney at Law(Japan) 


The principle of “business and human rights” is not limited in the context of supply chains outside Japan. Ensuring non-discrimination is required within Japan, and in Japanese enterprises’ own operations. Let us recall that gender pay gap is one of the key human rights issues in Japan.

The Act on the Promotion of Women’s Participation and Advancement in the Workplace (Act No.64 of 2015) obliges enterprises with more than 300 employees to collect and analyze gender related data, and devise action plans to improve gender equality with concrete objectives and measures to be taken.

Disclosure of information regarding “women’s participation and advancement” is also required, and such information is specified under the ordinance of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Under this framework, disclosure of gender pay gap is not mandatory. 


Gender pay gap stood at 26.6% in 2017, and this issue has been taken up for many years by the International Labour Organization’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations on the implementation of the ILO Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100). Also, at the most recent Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations Human Rights Council which was held in November 2017, numbers of recommendations were made on this issue by various countries. 


Continued efforts have been made by Japanese business sectors to address the gender pay gap. For example, in order to rectify the horizontal segregation, they aim at increasing girls and women in the science and engineering field both in education and at workplace. Also, an emphasis is put on rectifying vertical segregation, i.e., to increase women in management positions, as provided for in the above Act of 2015. 


The government also demonstrates its initiatives, such as the World Assembly for Women, which gathers top leaders from all over the world, or providing training programs for women executives. Sure, it is important to learn from global top leaders, and to increase the rate of women in the board (3.7% in 2017), etc. However, a question we need to ask ourselves is: are we really talking about gender pay gap? 28.4% of female regular workers’ annual salary ranges between JPY 2 million (15,368 Euros) to JPY 2.99 million (22,975 Euros) as of February 2017, and regrettably, policy measures seem to be scarce targeting these women. 

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