The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

The impact of an aging society on Japan’s workforce is a topic of frequent discussion and represents one of the most urgent issues facing the country. With fewer young people entering the workforce each year, Japan-based companies cannot afford to overlook anyone. And yet, in the global competition for the brightest talent, a corporate culture that is less than welcoming to LGBT couples is causing Japan to fall behind. It is time to fully embrace diversity for the betterment of busi­nesses, the economy, and, of course, the lives and well-being of the individuals themselves.

LEVEL FIELD
There is a strong business case for inclusion, and the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) Human Resource Management Committee has released a viewpoint on the matter entitled Support the Recruitment and Retention of Talent by Instituting Marriage Equality in Japan.

The viewpoint outlines three key issues:

  • Competitiveness
  • Productivity
  • Diversity and inclusion

When it comes to competing for talent, 25 countries—including all members of the Group of Seven except Japan—extend the right to marry to LGBT couples. Japan, however, has no national LGBT anti-discrimination policy and LGBT couples have no legal marital protection.

As a result, when LGBT talent assesses work offers across multiple countries, Japan is a less attractive option. Recognizing same-sex marriage—and providing the same protections and benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy—would help level the playing field. In this way, Japan can create a more inclusive living and working environment, a critical step in stemming the rapid decline of the workforce.

BEST PRACTICE
Another benefit for Japan would be align­ment with global best practice. This would allow Japanese companies doing business overseas—and global companies doing business in Japan—to apply the same standards and benefit guidelines to all their employees, regardless of sexual orientation or current country of residence.

At present, LGBT workers do not qualify for spouse visas even if their marriage is legally recognized in their home country. And health insurance? They don’t qualify for that either. Some companies create special compensatory packages that work around these limitations, but such measures are administra­tively and financially burden­some, and may cause the recipient to incur an additional tax burden not borne by married couples.

The ACCJ considers legal recognition of marriage equality a matter of corporate social responsibility, a step that supports policies that help sustain an effective social infrastructure, promote diversity, and grow the economy. Such a move would raise Japan’s profile in the Asia–Pacific region, where the ACCJ believes Japan should take the lead in shaping future regional economic development.

LOCAL MEDIA
Japanese society is moving in the direction of freedom to marry. With more than half the population favoring the change, and with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games soon turning the global spotlight on the country, now is the ideal time for the Government of Japan to move on this issue.

As a sign of its importance, the British, Canadian, Danish, Irish, and Australian and New Zealand chambers of commerce in Japan have joined the ACCJ to support the viewpoint, which was made possible with the help of the Lawyers for LGBT and Allies Network (LLAN).

ACCJ advocacy has also begun to reach Japanese-language media as Human Resource Management Committee Chair Ginger Griggs was featured in Nikkei’s Personal Insights on November 9. In the story (above), Griggs presented an overview in Japanese of the joint-chamber marriage equality viewpoint.

Through ongoing efforts such as this, the ACCJ is dedicated to ensuring equal rights that create a better workplace and stronger environment for global business in Japan.

Download the viewpoint at www.accj.or.jp/advocacy-overview.html

Christopher Bryan Jones is Editor-in-Chief of The ACCJ Journal. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he has lived in Japan since 1997.