The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal

flag
bar

TITLE: JAPAN HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE: FEBRUARY 1995









                             JAPAN


Japan is a parliamentary democracy based on a 1947 
Constitution.  Sovereignty is vested in the people, and the 
Emperor is defined as the symbol of state.  Executive power is 
vested in a cabinet, composed of a prime minister and ministers 
of state, responsible to the Diet, Japan's two-house 
Parliament.  The Diet, elected by universal suffrage and secret 
ballot, designates the Prime Minister, who must be a member of 
that body.  In the lower house general election in July 1993, 
the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lost its majority for the 
first time in 38 years.  The Government, formed in June 1994, 
is a three-party coalition consisting of the LDP, the Social 
Democratic Party of Japan, and the new party Sakigake.  The 
judiciary is independent of the Government.

A well-organized and disciplined police force generally 
respects the human rights of the populace and is firmly under 
the control of the civil authorities.  However, there continued 
to be credible reports of harsh treatment of some suspects in 
custody.

Japan's industrialized free market economy is highly efficient 
and competitive in world markets.  In 1994 the economy began to 
recover from a recession that began in 1991.

A just and efficient legal system generally assures observance 
of constitutionally provided human rights.  However, the 
Burakumin (a group historically treated as outcasts), the Ainu 
(Japan's indigenous people), women, and alien residents 
experience varying degrees of discrimination, some of it severe 
and of long standing.  There also continue to be reports of 
physical and psychological abuse of prisoners or detainees.  
Officials are sometimes dismissed for such abuse but are seldom 
tried, convicted, and imprisoned.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial 
killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution provides for freedom from torture and cruel, 
inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.  However, 
reports by several Japanese bar associations and some prisoners 
indicate that police sometimes use physical violence, including 
kicking and beating, as well as psychological intimidation, 
including threats and name calling, to obtain confessions from 
suspects in custody or to enforce discipline.  In Japan, 
confession is regarded as the first step in the rehabilitative 
process.  Roughly 85 percent of all criminal cases going to 
trial include confessions, reflecting the priority that the 
system places on admissions of guilt.  The Government also 
points out that the high percentage of confessions, like the 
high conviction rate, is reflective of a higher standard of 
evidence needed to bring about indictment in the Japanese 
system.  Appellate courts have overturned several convictions 
in recent years on the ground that they were obtained as a 
result of forced confession.  In addition, civil and criminal 
suits have been brought against some police and prosecution 
officials, alleging abuse during interrogation and detention.  
While many of these cases are still pending, one Tokyo public 
prosecutor was dismissed and two resigned in 1994 in separate 
incidents of alleged assaults on witnesses during questioning.  
One of the prosecutors involved has been indicted, and the 
State has agreed to compensate one of the victims.

The National Bar Association and human rights groups have 
criticized the prison system, with its emphasis on strict 
discipline and obedience to numerous rules.  Guards sometimes 
selectively enforce rules and impose punishment, including 
"minor solitary confinement," which may be imposed for at least 
1 and not more than 60 days and in which the prisoner is made 
to sit (for foreigners) or kneel (for Japanese) motionless in 
the middle of an empty cell.

Some human rights groups allege that physical restraints, such 
as leather handcuffs, have been used as a form of punishment 
and that prisoners have been forced to eat and relieve 
themselves unassisted while wearing these restraints.  Ministry 
of Justice officials state that restraints are only used inside 
the prison when prisoners have been violent and pose a threat to themselves and others, or when there is concern about an 
attempt to escape.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Constitutional provisions for freedom from arbitrary arrest or 
imprisonment are respected in practice.  Japanese law provides 
for judicial determination of the legality of detention.  
Persons may not be detained without charge, and prosecuting 
authorities must be prepared to demonstrate before trial that 
probable cause exists to detain the accused.  Under the Code of 
Criminal Procedure, a suspect may be held in police custody for 
up to 72 hours without judicial proceedings.  This period may 
be extended by a judge for up to 20 additional days for 
preindictment investigation.  If an indictment follows, the 
suspect is transferred to a criminal detention facility.  Bail 
is available in only about 25 percent of cases.

The Bar Association and human rights groups have criticized the 
practice of "substitute detention."  While Japanese law 
stipulates that suspects should be held in "houses of 
detention" between arrest and sentencing, a police detention 
facility may be substituted at the order of the court.  This 
provision was originally added to facilitate investigation and 
cover a shortage of normal detention facilities.  However, 
according to a 1994 Ministry of Justice report, normal 
detention facilities were filled to only 60 percent of capacity 
in 1993.  Critics charge that allowing suspects to be detained 
by the same authorities that interrogate them heightens the 
potential for detainee abuse and coercion.  The Government 
counters that adequate safeguards to prevent abuse, including 
strong judicial oversight, have been built into the system.

The length of time before a suspect is brought to trial depends 
on the nature of the crime but rarely exceeds 2 months from 
date of arrest; the average is 1 to 2 months.  Critics charge 
that access to counsel is limited both in duration and 
frequency, although the Government denies that this is the 
case.  The Criminal Procedure Code grants the prosecution and 
investigating police officials the power to control access to 
attorneys before indictment when deemed necessary for the sake 
of the investigation.  As a court-appointed attorney is not 
approved until after indictment, suspects must rely on their 
own resources to hire an attorney for counseling before 
indictment.  In addition, counsel may not be present during 
interrogation at any time before or after indictment.  Beyond 
this, the Government affirms that the right of the accused to 
seek legal counsel is fully respected and that attorneys are 
almost always able to see clients without obstruction.  Some 
local bar associations provide detainees with a free counseling 
session prior to indictment.  Counsel is provided at government 
expense after indictment if the arrested person cannot afford 
one.

Preventive detention does not exist.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Government respects in practice the constitutional 
provisions for the right to a speedy and public trial by an 
impartial tribunal in all criminal cases.  The defendant is 
informed of charges upon arrest and assured a public trial by 
an independent civilian court with defense counsel and the 
right to cross-examination.  The Constitution assures 
defendants the right not to be compelled to testify against 
themselves as well as free and private access to counsel, 
although the right to such access is sometimes abridged in 
practice.  For example, the law allows prosecutors to control 
access to counsel before indictment, and there are persistent 
allegations of coerced confessions.  Defendants are also 
protected from the retroactive application of laws and have the 
right of access to incriminating evidence after a formal 
indictment has been made.  However, Japanese law does not 
require full disclosure by the prosecutor, and material that 
will not be used in court by the prosecution may be 
suppressed.

The judiciary is independent and free from executive branch 
interference.  Judges are appointed by the Cabinet for 10-year 
terms, which can be renewed until judges have reached the age 
of 65.  Justices of the Supreme Court can serve until the age 
of 70 but face periodic review through popular referendum.  A 
defendant who is dissatisfied with the decision of a trial 
court of first instance may, within the period prescribed by 
law, appeal to a higher court.  There are several levels of 
courts, with the Supreme Court serving as the highest judicial 
authority.  There is no trial by jury in Japan.

There are no political prisoners.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

Under the Constitution, each search or seizure must be made 
upon separate warrant issued by a judge.  Standards for issuing 
such warrants exist to guard against arbitrary searches.  There 
were no reports that the Government or any other organization 
arbitrarily interfered with privacy, family, home, or 
correspondence.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution, an independent press and judiciary, and a 
functioning democratic political system combine to ensure 
freedom of speech and press.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

These freedoms are provided for in the Constitution and 
respected in practice.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is provided for in the Constitution and 
respected in practice.  While Buddhism and Shintoism remain the 
two major religions, there are many others, including several 
Christian denominations.  Foreign missionaries are welcome and 
gain admission to Japan through a specific visa category for 
foreign religious workers.  Some temples and shrines receive 
public support as national historic or cultural sites.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Japanese citizens have the right to travel freely both within 
Japan and abroad, to change their place of residence, to 
emigrate, and to repatriate voluntarily.  Japanese nationality 
may be lost by naturalization in a foreign country or failure 
to elect Japanese nationality at the required age.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Japanese citizens have the right and ability peacefully to 
change their government.  A parliamentary democracy, Japan is 
governed by the political party or parties able to form a 
majority in the lower house of its bicameral Diet.  From 1955 
until 1993, all prime ministers and almost all cabinet 
ministers were members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), 
which enjoyed a majority in the lower house throughout this 
period.  From August 1993 to June 1994, non-LDP coalitions 
governed the country.  The current three-party coalition 
government includes the LDP but is headed by a Prime Minister 
from the Japan Socialist Party.  Local and prefectural 
governments are often controlled by coalitions.

Elections on all levels are held frequently; suffrage is 
universal; and ballots are secret.

Postwar population movements contributed to significant 
imbalances in size among parliamentary electoral districts.  In 
June, however, the Diet approved legislation reducing the 
maximum voting weight disparity among upper house districts of 
the Diet from almost six-and-a-half to one to less than five to 
one.  In November 1994 the Diet passed legislation reducing the 
maximum voter weight disparity to approximately two to one in 
lower house districts.  In addition, the new legislation 
provides that two-fifths of lower house members will be elected 
in proportional races which, in effect, further reduces 
malapportionment.

There are no legal or de facto impediments to women's 
participation in government and politics, but cultural 
attitudes are not favorable to their participation.  Women hold 
14 seats in the 511-member lower house of the Diet, and 38 
seats in the 252-member upper house.  The 21-member Cabinet 
includes only 1 female member.  Women make up nearly 20 percent 
of all government workers but hold less than 1 percent of top 
(section chief and higher) government posts.  In 1994 the Prime 
Minister's office promulgated an action plan to increase the 
ratio of women in leadership positions on government advisory 
panels to 30 percent by fiscal year 1995.  However, the target 
was later cut to 15 percent, a step apparently reflecting 
slower than anticipated progress.  Only 40 of the 201 existing 
panels currently meet the 15-percent target.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Local human rights organizations function freely, with no 
governmental restrictions or impediments.  International human 
rights nongovernmental organizations have been allowed to work 
freely in Japan, although the Government restricts access to 
prisons and detention facilities by human rights groups.

The Civil Liberties Bureau in the Ministry of Justice and the 
Human Rights and Refugee Division in the Ministry of Foreign 
Affairs monitor problems relating to human rights practices in 
Japan.  The Civil Liberties Bureau also commissions private 
citizens, nominated by prefectural governments, to investigate 
charges of discrimination.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

     Women

The position of women in society, although significantly 
improved during the last few decades, continues to reflect 
deep-seated traditional values that assign women a subordinate 
role in the workplace.  Although discrimination by private 
employers against women is prohibited by the Constitution, it 
persists.  Legislation has been enacted over the past 30 years 
to accord women the same legal status as men.  The Equal 
Employment Opportunity Law of 1986 was aimed at eliminating sex 
discrimination in such areas as recruitment, pay, and working 
hours.  Yet the law does not expressly forbid discrimination; 
it merely states that "employers should endeavor" to avoid it.  
Under this law and other regulations, the Ministry of Labor 
attempts to encourage corporate compliance with its objectives 
by positive inducements, including subsidies; it does not 
enforce compliance through fines or other punitive measures.  
As part of their lower overall intake of new employees because 
of recessionary pressures, some companies announced that they 
would hire no women in 1994; other companies did not announce 
such a policy but reduced the percentage of women hired for 
entry-level positions.

Significant disparities in pay and access to managerial 
positions persist for women, who comprise over 40 percent of 
the employed population.  Several cases are pending which 
challenge management's allegedly biased use of Japan's 
two-track (general versus administrative) system in hiring 
women employees.  Initially designed to create a "career" track 
for employees while maintaining a separate "clerical" track, 
observers say the system is used to discriminate against women, 
who traditionally have not been hired for managerial 
positions.  While the Labor Standards Law prohibits employers 
from discriminating against women in wages, it does not ban 
disproportionate hiring into different career tracks based on 
gender.  A 1994 Ministry of Labor report noted that the average 
wage of women workers is less than 60 percent of that of men 
and that women account for only 4.1 percent of management posts 
in the country.  An increasing number of women have filed 
discrimination suits and have protested unfair hiring practices 
of Japanese firms.

Public awareness of discrimination against women and sexual 
harassment in the workplace has increased.  A growing number of 
government entities are establishing hot lines and designating 
ombudsmen to handle complaints of discrimination and sexual 
harassment.  Nevertheless, sexual discrimination and 
stereotyping in the workplace continue to be major problems for 
women.

Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, often 
may go unreported due to social and cultural concerns about 
shaming one's family or endangering the reputation of one's 
spouse or offspring.  Typically, victimized women more often 
return to the home of their parents rather than file reports 
with authorities.  Therefore, Ministry of Justice statistics on 
violence against women undoubtedly understate the scope of the 
current situation.  Many local governments are responding 
positively to a need for confidential assistance by 
establishing special women's consultation departments in police 
and prefectural offices.

Recent immigration trends reflect the growing problem of 
trafficking of Asian women to Japan.  While the number of 
illegal male workers has decreased from its peak in November 
1992, the number of illegal female workers continued to 
increase.  Human rights groups estimate that over 60 percent of 
illegal female immigrants work in occupations involving 
prostitution.  The Government is working to reduce the foreign 
prostitution problem by enforcing existing antiprostitution 
laws as well as provisions in the Immigration Control and 
Refugee Recognition Act directed against anyone "encouraging a 
person to engage in illegal work."  Over the past year, police, 
especially in Tokyo, have conducted a number of sweeps against 
both foreign prostitutes and their employers.

In August 1993, the Japanese Prime Minister officially 
acknowledged and apologized for the former Imperial 
government's involvement in the Japanese army's practice of 
forcing an estimated 200,000 women (including Koreans, 
Filipinos, Chinese, Indonesians, Burmese, Dutch, and Japanese) 
to provide sex to soldiers between 1932 and 1945.  Current 
plans by the Government to atone for these abuses do not 
include direct government compensation to surviving "comfort 
women."  Two cases are pending in Tokyo District Court--one 
brought by 3 Korean plaintiffs and the other by 18 Filipino 
plaintiffs--seeking compensation for these abuses, but a 
decision in these cases is likely to take years.

     Children

In general the rights of children are adequately protected.  In 
recent years, however, more attention has been paid to the 
problem of severe bullying, or "ijime," involving verbal or 
physical abuse in middle and high schools.  Over 10,000 serious 
cases of ijime are reported to the Ministry of Education 
annually, although human rights organizations estimate that the 
true number of such incidents is much higher.  In 1993, 92 
children under the age of 14 committed suicide, many apparently 
in response to ijime.  In an effort to cope with ijime, as well 
as with other children's issues, the Ministry of Justice 
established the Office of Ombudsman for Children's Rights in 
August 1994.

     Indigenous People

The Ainu, a Caucasoid people descended from the first 
inhabitants of Japan, now probably number less than 100,000; 
almost all of them live on Hokkaido, the northernmost of 
Japan's four main islands.  Their primary occupations are 
hunting, fishing, and small-scale farming.  A law passed in 
1899, the Former Aborigines Protection Act, left the Ainu with 
only about 15 percent of their original landholdings.  Ainu 
leaders continue to express grievances about this situation.  
Meanwhile, the Ainu continue to face social discrimination 
while engaging in an uphill struggle against complete 
assimilation.  The Government has done little in response to 
Ainu grievances.  An interagency study group opened hearings in 
January 1990 with the stated goal of reviewing Ainu history and 
making recommendations, but it has been largely moribund.  A 
milestone was reached on October 13, 1994, when a Sapporo 
district court defined the Ainu as a minority group.  However, 
in November the Ainu failed in their attempt to obtain a court 
ruling that they are an indigenous people with special land, 
fishing, and cultural rights.

In July Shigeru Kayano became the first Ainu member of the Diet 
when he gained a seat in the House of Councilors.  Kayano 
declared his intent to promote Ainu rights legislation in the 
Parliament, but immediate progress appears unlikely.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The ethnocentric nature of Japanese society, reinforced by a 
high degree of cultural and ethnic homogeneity and a history of 
isolation from other cultures, has impeded the integration of 
minority groups.  This primarily affects Burakumin, Koreans, 
and alien workers, against whom social and legal discrimination 
is widespread.

The Burakumin (descendants of feudal era "outcasts" who 
practiced "unclean" professions such as butchering and 
undertaking) are frequently victims of entrenched social 
discrimination.  Their access to private housing, employment, 
and marriage opportunities has been greatly restricted.  
Beginning in 1969, the Government introduced with some success 
a number of social, economic, and legal programs designed to 
improve conditions for the Burakumin and hasten their 
assimilation into mainstream Japanese society.  The Government 
has extended basic legislation to provide funding for Burakumin 
programs until 1997, but the Burakumin continue to lobby for a 
new law that will expand current programs.  In recent years, 
however, some within the Burakumin community have questioned 
whether "assimilation" is an appropriate goal.

Despite improvements in Japan's legal safeguards against 
discrimination, Korean permanent residents (most of whom were 
born, raised, and educated in Japan and who are estimated to 
number approximately 700,000) are still subject to various 
forms of deeply entrenched social discrimination.  In 1994, as 
Japanese concerns over North Korea's suspected nuclear 
development program grew, verbal and physical attacks escalated 
against pro-North Korean sympathizers until tensions decreased 
in midyear.  Between April and July, over 120 such 
incidents--mostly targeting Korean school students--were 
alleged by the pro-North Korea Chosen Soren Residents' 
Association.  The Ministry of Justice acknowledged 42 attacks 
on Korean students as "human rights violations" as of June.

The Government in 1993 halted the fingerprinting of permanent 
foreign residents.  (A Korean alien resident of Japan who lost 
her permanent resident status because of her refusal to be 
fingerprinted won an appeal to the Fukuoka High Court after the 
law was repealed.)  Instead of fingerprinting, the Government 
has established a family registry system that uses the 
resident's picture and signature and contains information on 
parents and spouses living in Japan, a system similar to that 
used for Japanese nationals.  The current law leaves intact the 
requirement that all foreign residents must carry alien 
registration certificates at all times.

In recent years, the Government has enacted several laws and 
regulations providing permanent resident aliens with equal 
access to public housing and loans, social security pensions 
for those qualified, and certain public employment rights.  
Some immigrants reportedly face police harassment and 
discrimination in obtaining housing, jobs, and health care.  In 
recognition of the difficulties faced by foreigners in these 
areas, Tokyo city has issued a law to prevent housing 
discrimination against foreigners.  There have also been 
efforts by the central and local governments to disseminate 
information on health insurance plans to enroll foreigners into 
the system.  Some communities are using existing social welfare 
programs to cover emergency medical expenses incurred by 
uninsured foreign visitors.

The January 1991 Memorandum Between the Japanese and South 
Korean Governments extended employment rights to local 
government positions, giving each locality the authority to 
decide which jobs may be held by non-Japanese nationals.  Local 
governments are also being urged by the Government to allow 
Korean residents to take the Teacher Entrance Examination and 
to employ them on a full-time basis.  Private-sector employment 
and social discrimination are still common.  Antidiscrimination 
laws affecting Korean residents were initiated as government 
guidance and are not backed up by penalty provisions.  In the 
first court test of Japan's antidiscrimination laws, in 
September a second-generation Korean nurse sued the Tokyo 
metropolitan government on the grounds that she had been 
refused consideration for promotion because she is not 
Japanese.  At year's end the case was still pending.

According to law, aliens with 5 years of continuous residence 
are eligible for naturalization and the simultaneous 
acquisition of citizenship rights, including the right to 
vote.  In fact, however, most eligible aliens choose not to 
apply for citizenship, in part due to fears that their cultural 
identity would thereby be lost.  De facto obstacles to 
naturalization include broad discretion available to 
adjudicating officers and great emphasis on Japanese language 
ability.

The Immigration Bureau of the Justice Ministry estimates that, 
as of May 1994, there were 293,800 foreign nationals residing 
illegally in Japan, a decrease of 1.6 percent from the previous 
year.  Many are laborers from Southeast Asia, China, Iran, and 
South Korea.

While many of Japan's illegally resident foreigners came in 
search of better-paying manufacturing and construction jobs, 
there are indications that these opportunities decreased during 
Japan's economic slowdown.  Thus, more of the foreign workers 
are unemployed or marginally employed.  Law enforcement sweeps 
against illegal foreign workers have increased.  Activist 
groups claim that, with little or no knowledge of the Japanese 
language or of their legal rights, foreign workers can easily 
be discriminated against by employers.  Some illegal alien 
workers have been exploited.  The Government has tried to 
reduce the inflow of illegal foreign workers by prosecuting 
employers.  Recent revisions of the Immigration Law provide for 
penalties against employers of undocumented foreign workers.  
Suspected foreign workers may also be denied entry for 
passport, visa, and entry application irregularities.  The 
Government continues to study the foreign worker issue, and 
several citizens' groups are working with illegal foreign 
workers to improve their access to information on worker rights.

Japan has granted asylum in only a small number of cases to 
those claiming fear of persecution upon return to their 
homeland.  The Government believes that most people seeking 
asylum in Japan do so for economic reasons.  According to the 
Foreign Ministry, from 1982 to August 1994, Japan determined 
that 206 of 1,109 applicants met the required standard for 
asylum.  As for Chinese student dissidents, the Government has 
shown flexibility in dealing with visa extensions, though it 
continues to be reluctant to grant permanent asylum.

In March, in accordance with the Comprehensive Plan of Action 
(CPA) developed in Geneva in 1989 by participating nations to 
determine the refugee status of Indochinese asylum seekers, the 
Government changed its position on screening procedures for 
Vietnamese boat people--it will no longer conduct special 
screening procedures for newly arrived boat people and will 
treat them as it would all other illegal entrants to Japan.

Strict administrative procedures contribute to the roughly 
20-percent rate of approval of asylum applications.  For 
example, appeals of initial denials are reviewed by a separate 
authority of the same body, and decisions are rarely 
overturned.  Asylum seekers and some critics claim that the 
processing of asylum applications is not readily 
understandable, making it difficult for applicants to comply 
with government procedures.  Also, the Government's "60-day 
rule" requires applicants to appear at an immigration office 
within 60 days of arrival or within 60 days of the time they 
learn they are likely to be persecuted in their home country; 
most asylum seekers arrive in Japan without knowledge of this 
requirement and can inadvertently waive their claim by not 
acting promptly.  In an effort to make procedures clearer to 
applicants, the Government has revised the English-language 
pamphlet it distributes to those interested in the asylum 
process.

     People with Disabilities

Japan has no national law protecting the rights of the 
disabled, including access and employment, but some prefectures 
and cities have enacted their own legislation addressing the 
issue.  Despite growing awareness of the issue, access to 
public transportation, "mainstream" public education, and other 
facilities is often quite limited for the disabled in Japan.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The right of workers to associate freely in unions is assured 
by the Constitution.  Approximately 24 percent of the active 
work force belongs to unions.  Unions are free of government 
control and influence.  The Japanese Trade Union Confederation 
(RENGO), which represents 8 million Japanese workers and was 
formed in 1989 through the merger of several confederations, is 
Japan's largest labor organization.  There is no requirement 
for a single trade union structure, and there are no 
restrictions on who may be a union official.  Members of the 
armed forces, police, and firefighters, however, are not 
permitted to form unions or to strike.  Most unions are 
involved in political activity as well as labor relations but 
are not controlled by political parties.

Unions are active in international bodies, most notably the 
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and maintain 
extensive international contacts.  The right to strike, 
implicit in the Constitution, is exercised.  During 1993, 
116,000 worker days were lost to strikes.  Japanese laws 
prohibit retribution against strikers and are effectively 
enforced.  Public employees do not have the right to strike, 
although they do have recourse to mediation and arbitration.  
The Government determines the pay of government employees based 
on a recommendation by the independent National Personnel 
Authority.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Constitution gives unions the right to organize, bargain, 
and act collectively.  These rights are exercised freely, and 
collective bargaining is practiced widely.  The annual "Spring 
Wage Offensive," in which individual unions in each industry 
conduct negotiations simultaneously with their firms, involves 
nationwide participation.  Japanese management usually consults 
closely with its enterprise union.  However, trade unions are 
independent of management and aggressively pursue the interests 
of their workers.  Antiunion discrimination is prohibited by 
law and adequate mechanisms exist for resolving such cases as 
do exist.  A high-profile example still pending concerns the 
privatization of the national railway system in 1986.  The East 
Japan Railway Company and some of the other private successor 
companies of the Japan National Railway refused to offer 
employment to thousands of former employees who were union 
members.  Fourteen cases related to this matter have been filed 
with the Central Labor Commission.  Two have been decided in 
favor of the workers but are under appeal by management, and 
the other 12 were still pending at year's end.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Labor Standards Law prohibits the use of forced labor, and 
there are no known cases of forced or compulsory labor.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Under the revised Labor Standards Law of 1987, minors under 15 
years of age may not be employed as workers, and those under 
the age of 18 years may not be employed in dangerous or harmful 
work.  The Labor Inspection Division of the Ministry of Labor 
rigorously enforces child labor laws.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Minister of Labor or the Director of the Prefectural Labor 
Standards Office administratively determines minimum wages, 
based usually on the recommendation of the Tripartite Minimum 
Wage Council.  Minimum wage rates vary by industry and region.  
In the Tokyo area, a steelworker's rate is $6.25 (620 yen) per 
hour.  The wage rates are sufficient to provide workers and 
their families with a decent living.  Amendments to the Labor 
Standards Law provided for the phased reduction of maximum 
working hours in most industries from the 44-hour, 6-day 
workweek to 40 hours in 1994.

The Ministry of Labor effectively administers various laws and 
regulations governing occupational health and safety, principal 
among which is the Industrial Safety and Health Law of 1972.  
Standards are set by the Ministry of Labor and issued after 
consultation with the Standing Committee on Safety and Health 
of the Tripartite Labor Standards Commission.  Labor inspectors 
have the authority to suspend unsafe operations immediately, 
and the law provides that workers may voice concerns over 
occupational safety and remove themselves from unsafe working 
conditions without jeopardizing their continued employment.

(###)

[end of document]

flag
bar

Department Seal

Return to 1994 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.