Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights considered the
second periodic report of Japan on the implementation of the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (E/1990/6/Add.21)
at its 42nd and 43rd meetings (E/C.12/2001/SR.42 and 43), held on
21 August 2001, and adopted, at its 56th meeting (E/C.12/2001/SR.56),
held on 30 August 2001, the following concluding observations.
Committee welcomes the second periodic report of the State party,
which was in general conformity with the Committee's guidelines.
The Committee welcomes the open and constructive dialogue with the
delegation, which consisted of experts on the issues relevant to
the Covenant, and its willingness to answer the questions posed
by the Committee.
B. Positive aspects
Committee notes that the State party ranks as one of the most developed
countries in the world (ninth on the UNDP Human Development Index
ranking), with the world's second-largest economy, and that it has
achieved high levels of enjoyment of economic, social and cultural
rights for the majority of its citizens.
Committee also notes that the State party is the world's largest
donor in absolute figures, allocating 0.27 per cent of its GNP to
official development assistance (ODA), of which 40 per cent is devoted
to areas related to the rights contained in the Covenant.
Committee recognizes the significant role of the State party in
promoting international cooperation for the promotion of economic,
social and cultural rights in the context of international forums,
such as the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation
Committee notes with appreciation that the State party has begun
to involve national non-governmental organizations in the preparation
of its report to the Committee.
Committee takes note that the State party is taking measures to
promote gender equality, and in 2000 formulated a Basic Plan for
Committee welcomes the State party's recent measures aimed at improving
the protection of women and children against violence: the Law for
Punishing Acts Related to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography
and for Protecting Children (1999), the Law on Prohibition of Stalking
Behaviour and Assisting Victims (2000) the Child Abuse Prevention
Law (2000) and the Law on the Prevention of Spousal Violence and
the Protection of Victims (2001). The Committee also welcomes the
amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act to protect victims of child
abuse and sexual offences during legal proceedings (2001), and the
formulation of a Plan of Action against Commercial Sexual Exploitation
of Children (2001).
Committee takes note of the fact that the State party has made considerable
efforts to cope with the aftermath of the great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake
in 1995, and that the national, regional and local authorities have
reacted quickly to create temporary, as well as permanent housing
for the vast number of persons affected.
C. Principal subjects of concern
Committee is concerned that the State party does not give effect
to the provisions of the Covenant in domestic law in a satisfactory
manner, despite the fact that many of its provisions are reflected
in the Constitution. The Committee is also concerned that provisions
of the Covenant are not sufficiently taken into account in the process
of legislation and policy formulation, and are rarely mentioned
in legislative or administrative proposals or in parliamentary debates.
The Committee further expresses concern about the fact that judicial
decisions generally do not make reference to the Covenant, on the
mistaken ground that none of its provisions has direct effect. It
is a further matter of concern that the State party endorses that
position, thereby contravening its obligations under the Covenant.
Committee is particularly concerned that the State party has no
intention of withdrawing its reservations to articles 7 (d), 8 (2)
and 13 (2) (b) and (c), of the Covenant, based on the argument that
the State party has to a large extent already achieved realization
of the rights enshrined in the aforementioned articles, whereas
information received by the Committee reveals that full realization
of those rights is not yet guaranteed.
Committee expresses its concern that the State party interprets
the principle of non-discrimination as being subject to progressive
realization and to "reasonable" or "rationally justifiable" exceptions.
Committee is concerned about the persisting de jure and de
facto discrimination against minority groups in Japanese society,
and in particular against the Buraku and Okinawa communities, the
indigenous Ainu people and people of Korean descent, especially
in the fields of employment, housing and education.
Committee is also concerned about the persisting legal, social and
institutional discrimination against children born out of wedlock,
in particular as regards the curtailment of their inheritance and
Committee expresses its concern about widespread discrimination
against women and the de facto inequality that still exists between
men and women in Japanese society in professional and decision-making
positions, both in political representative bodies, public services
and administration, and in the private sector.
Committee expresses its concern regarding the persistent cases of
domestic violence, sexual harassment and sexual exploitation of
children, in spite of domestic legislation adopted in 2001.
Committee is also concerned about the continuing de facto inequality
in wages between men and women for work of equal value, and in particular
about the persisting practice in many enterprises of employing women
primarily in the clerical services, with little or no chance of
promotion to the professional ranks. These inequalities persist
despite legislative, administrative and other measures taken by
the State party, such as the 1997 amendment to the Equal Employment
Committee is concerned that the State party has not ratified certain
significant ILO conventions, such as the Abolition of Forced Labour
Convention, 1957 (No. 105), the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation)
Convention, 1958 (No. 111), and the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples
Convention, 1989 (No. 169).
Committee expresses its grave concern that the State party permits
excessive working hours in both the public and private sectors.
Committee expresses its concern that from the age of 45 workers
run a greater risk of having their salaries reduced or even being
laid off without adequate compensation.
Committee is concerned about the general prohibition of strikes
for all public employees and civil servants, even those not working
in essential governmental services, including teachers. This contravenes
article 8 (2) of the Covenant (to which the State party has made
a reservation), and the ILO Convention (No. 87) concerning Freedom
of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, despite
the existence of alternative systems of personnel committees.
Committee is concerned about reported incidents in nuclear power
stations and the lack of transparency and disclosure of necessary
information regarding the safety of such installations, and also
the lack of advance nationwide and community preparation for the
prevention and handling of nuclear accidents.
Committee is also concerned about the consequences of the recent
changes to the public pension system, which involved a gradual increase
in the age of eligibility from 60 to 65 years. If the retirement
age and the age for eligibility for public pension benefits do not
coincide, there may be a loss of income for those who are obliged
to retire before the age of 65.
Committee is further concerned about the absence of a minimum pension
and the persistent de facto gender inequality in the pension system
which perpetuates the income gap between men and women.
Committee notes with concern that discrimination against persons
with disabilities continues to exist in law and practice, particularly
in relation to labour and social security rights.
Committee expresses its concern that the compensation offered to
wartime "comfort women" by the Asian Women's Fund, which is primarily
financed through private funding, has not been deemed an acceptable
measure by the women concerned.
Committee is concerned that despite large resettlement programmes
planned and executed by Hyogo Prefecture in the aftermath of the
great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake, the population most affected has
not always been consulted adequately, and as a consequence many
single older persons now live in environments totally unfamiliar
to them with little or no personal attention. Apparently, little
or no psychiatric or psychological treatment is being offered for
people who have lost their families. Many resettled earthquake victims
who are over 60 years of age lack community centres, access to health
centres and outpatient nursing.
Committee notes with concern that the poorer sections of the population
in the Hanshin-Awaji areas affected by the earthquake are finding
it increasingly difficult to finance their building reconstruction.
Some were forced to sell their property in order to pay off their
existing mortgages without being able to rebuild their houses.
Committee is concerned about the large number of homeless persons
throughout the country, especially in the Osaka/Kamagasaki area.
The Committee is further concerned that the State party has no comprehensive
plan to combat homelessness.
Committee is also concerned about forced evictions, especially of
the homeless from their temporary abode and those who have occupied
houses for a long time in the Utoro district. In this regard, the
Committee is particularly concerned about the summary procedure
whereby provisional eviction orders are granted by the courts without
any reasons being given, under the Court Order of Provisional Disposition
Procedure, without being subject to a stay of execution, thus rendering
any right of appeal meaningless and in effect transforming provisional
eviction orders into permanent ones, in breach of the guidelines
of the Committee established in its general comments Nos. 4 and
Committee is concerned about the frequently excessively competitive
and stressful nature of all levels of education, which results in
school absence, illness, and even suicide by students.
Committee expresses its concern about the fact that there are very
limited possibilities for children of minorities to enjoy education
in their own language and about their own culture in public schools.
The Committee is also concerned about the fact that minority schools,
such as Korean schools, are not officially recognized, even when
they adhere to the national education curriculum, and therefore
neither receive central government subsidies nor are able to provide
qualification for university entrance examinations.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
Committee urges the State party to review its position towards its
legal obligations arising under the Covenant and that its provisions
be interpreted as being directly applicable in practice, as outlined
in the Committee's general comments, including general comments
Nos. 13 and 14, at least in relation to the core obligations. The
State party is further encouraged to introduce "human rights impact
assessments", comparable to environmental impact assessments, and
other measures to ensure that the provisions of the Covenant are
taken into consideration in legislative and administrative policy
and decision-making processes.
Committee urges the State party to consider the withdrawal of its
reservations to articles 7 (d), 8 (2) and 13 (2) (b) and (c) of
Committee also recommends that the State party improve teaching
and training programmes on human rights for judges, prosecutors
and lawyers in order to enhance knowledge, awareness and application
of the Covenant.
appreciative of the measures undertaken by the State party to promote
and protect economic, social and cultural rights, the Committee
urges the State party to adopt, through an open and consultative
process, a comprehensive national plan of action, in accordance
with Part II, paragraph 71, of the Vienna Declaration and Programme
of Action. The Committee requests the State party to annex a copy
of its national plan of action to its third periodic report, and
to explain how the plan promotes and protects economic, social and
Committee urges the State party to increase its efforts to provide
international assistance to developing countries and to establish
a time frame within which the internationally accepted goal of 0.7
per cent of GNP set by the United Nations will be achieved. The
Committee also encourages the State party, as a member of international
financial institutions, in particular the International Monetary
Fund and the World Bank, to do all it can to ensure that the policies
and decisions of those organizations are in conformity with the
obligations of States parties to the Covenant, in particular the
obligations contained in articles 2 (1), 11, 15, 22 and 23 concerning
international assistance and cooperation.
Committee welcomes the State party's indication that it proposes
to establish a national human rights institution and urges the State
party to do so as soon as possible and in accordance with the 1991
Paris Principles and the Committee's general comment No. 10.
Committee requests the State party to take note of its position
that the principle of non-discrimination, as laid down in article
2 (2) of the Covenant, is an absolute principle and can be subject
to no exception, unless the distinction is based on objective criteria.
The Committee strongly recommends that the State party strengthen
its non-discrimination legislation accordingly.
noting that the State party is currently in the process of consultations
with Koreans living in the Utoro area regarding their unresolved
situation, the Committee recommends that the State party continue
to undertake necessary measures to combat patterns of de jure
and de facto discrimination against all minority groups in Japanese
society, including the Buraku people, the people of Okinawa and
the indigenous Ainu, particularly in the fields of employment, housing
Committee urges the State party to remove the concept of "illegitimate
children", which is unacceptable in a modern society, from legislation
and practice, urgently to take legislative and administrative measures
to eliminate all forms of discrimination against children born out
of wedlock, and further to restore the Covenant rights of persons
so affected (arts. 2 (2) and 10).
Committee urges the State party to implement more vigorously existing
legislation and to adopt new legislation with an appropriate gender
perspective, with a view to ensuring greater equality of men and
women, especially in the fields of employment, labour conditions,
wages and representation in higher positions in political representative
bodies, public services and administration.
Committee recommends that the State party provide detailed information
and statistical data on cases of domestic violence, sexual harassment
and sexual exploitation of children. The Committee also recommends
that the State party apply strictly its domestic legislation and
implement effective sanctions to the persons responsible for such
Committee strongly recommends that the State party continue to address
the issue of de facto inequality between men and women regarding
wages for work of equal value by more actively implementing existing
legislation, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, and relevant
administrative and other programmes and policies, such as the guidelines
concerning employment management differentiated by career track,
as referred to by the ILO, and by adopting appropriate new measures
to that effect.
Committee encourages the State party to consider ratifying ILO Conventions
Nos. 105, 111 and 169.
Committee recommends that the State party adopt the necessary legislative
and administrative measures to reduce working hours in both public
and private sectors.
Committee recommends that the State party take measures to ensure
that workers over the age of 45 years maintain their previous levels
of wages and job security.
Committee recommends, in line with the ILO, that the State party
ensure the right of civil servants and public employees not working
in essential services to organize strikes.
Committee recommends increased transparency and disclosure to the
population concerned of all necessary information, on issues relating
to the safety of nuclear power installations, and further urges
the State party to step up its preparation of plans for the prevention
of, and early reaction to, nuclear accidents.
Committee recommends that as the age of eligibility for the public
pension system gradually increases from 60 to 65 years, the State
party undertake measures to secure social security benefits for
those retiring before the age of 65.
Committee recommends that the State party incorporate a minimum
pension into the national pension system. The Committee further
recommends that the persisting de facto gender inequality in the
pension system be remedied to the maximum possible extent.
Committee recommends that the State party abolish discriminatory
provisions in statutes and that it adopt a law against all kinds
of discrimination relating to persons with disabilities. It further
urges the State party to continue, and speed up, progress in enforcing
the employment rate for persons with disabilities in the public
sector that is provided in legislation.
Committee strongly recommends that the State party find an appropriate
arrangement, in consultation with the organizations representing
the "comfort women", on ways and means to compensate the victims
in a manner that will meet their expectations, before it is too
late to do so.
Committee recommends that the State party encourage Hyogo Prefecture
to step up and expand its community services, in particular to older
and disabled persons.
Committee recommends that the State party, in line with its obligations
under article 11 of the Covenant, speedily take effective measures
to assist poorer earthquake victims in meeting their financial obligations
to public housing funds or banks, undertaken to reconstruct their
destroyed houses, in order to help them avoid having to sell their
properties to meet continuing mortgage payments.
Committee urges the State party to carry out an investigation, on
its own and jointly with the prefectures, to assess the extent and
causes of homelessness in Japan. The State party should also take
adequate measures to ensure full application of the existing laws,
such as the Livelihood Protection Law, ensuring an adequate standard
of living for the homeless.
Committee recommends that the State party take remedial action to
ensure that all eviction orders, and in particular the Court Order
of Provisional Disposition Procedure, conform to the guidelines
of the Committee specified in general comments Nos. 4 and 7.
Committee strongly recommends that the State party undertake a comprehensive
review of the educational system, taking into consideration general
comments Nos. 11 and 13 of the Committee, as well as general comment
No. 1 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The review should
focus in particular on the frequently excessively competitive and
stressful nature of all levels of education, which results in school
absence, illness, and even suicide by students.
Committee urges the State party to ensure that school textbooks
and other teaching materials present issues in a fair and balanced
manner which reflects the aims and objectives of education, as set
out in article 13 (1) of the Covenant, the Committee's general comment
No. 13 and general comment No. 1 of the Committee on the Rights
of the Child.
Committee strongly recommends that mother-tongue instruction be
introduced in the official curricula of public schools enrolling
a significant number of pupils belonging to linguistic minorities.
The Committee further recommends that the State party officially
recognize minority schools, in particular Korean schools, when they
comply with the national education curriculum, and consequently
make available to them subsidies and other financial assistance,
and also recognize their school leaving certificates as university
entrance examination qualifications.
Committee requests the State party to provide more extensive information
in its next periodic report on the following issues which could
not be sufficiently dealt with in the dialogue: the rights of foreigners,
including undocumented workers and apprentices, to just and favourable
working conditions, social security and health services, and the
rights of patients.
Committee recommends that the State party disseminate its concluding
observations widely among all levels of society and inform the Committee
of all steps taken to implement them. It also encourages the State
party to consult with non-governmental organizations and other members
of civil society at an early stage in the preparation of the third
the Committee requests the State party to submit its third periodic
report by 30 June, 2006, and to include in that report detailed
information on the steps undertaken to implement the recommendations
contained in the present concluding observations.