Nikkan Spa 2017/6/27

It is estimated that the LGBT population in Japan ranges from 6~8%, representing a potential market of about 6 trillion yen (53.4 billion USD).

With an eye on the coming Toyko Olympics, many companies and municipalities have begun to recognize these individuals. However, it seems that their efforts have yet to make a mark. 

As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics draw closer, there has been a trend towards creating awareness of human rights issues. Especially over the past year, companies have strengthened their efforts to create initiatives for LGBT individuals.

One common trend among companies has been the extension of equal marriage benefits to same-sex couples. For example, NTT Group allows marriage leave for same-sex couples, while ANA has extended their welfare program to the same-sex partners of their employees.

The efforts of companies to accommodate LGBT individuals has begun to be measured according the Pride Index, which was implemented last year. We spoke with a 36 year old manager of AEON, a company which was awarded ‘silver’ according to the index.

“We employ many individuals, from full time employees, to part time, to temporary, so we certainly have LGBT individuals working among us. We are learning about LGBT through company training and establishing all gender toilets so that everyone can enjoy shopping at our stores.”

However, while companies are creating policies to foster a better understanding of LGBT, there is still little awareness of these new measures.

“My company allows family discounts for same-sex couples along with welfare program benefits and paid leave, but I had no idea of the fact until the other day. There hasn’t really been any effort to promote the policy.” (43 year old male worker at a large communications company)

“My company invited transgender individuals to hold a talk, but only one person attended for about 8 minutes. The decision to hold it in the middle of the day when it’s hard for anyone to attend makes it feel like the company didn’t take it seriously.” (Female worker in her 30’s at a large communications company)

Many Still Unaware of the Issues

While companies are working to develop policies for LGBT workers, they also face difficulties in creating goods and services targeting the so-called 6 trillion yen LGBT market. Current efforts seem to be falling flat among LGBT consumers.

“I found an airline company that allows same-sex partners to be registered as family members on their frequent flyer miles program, so I decided to ask about it. However, I was told by the credit card company that I ‘must have a Shibuya partnership certificate‘ and was refused. It’s not as if everyone lives in Shibuya!” (40 years old, gay)

Such services will have little effect if only a few people can use them. In other cases, the fact that certain services exist aren’t even communicated to employees.

“When I asked a representative at my insurance company if a same-sex partner can receive life insurance benefits, I was told that it was impossible. However, when I read up on the topic, I learned that the company had in fact been offering services for same-sex couples since 2015. When I asked again, the representative apologized and said “The number of applicants is small, so there haven’t been any internal notifications about it.” (32, gay)

Understanding of LGBT Still in Progress

Regarding the current situation, Enomoto Yurika of LETIBEE, a company which conducts LGBT training for companies says, “Japanese companies should take a more lighthearted approach to LGBT policies.”

“For example, in America, Burger King created the ‘Proud Whopper’ in an event aimed at the LGBT community. The campaign consisted of a standard Whopper sandwich wrapped in rainbow colored paper, rainbows being a symbol of LGBT. The inside of the wrapper read, ‘We are all the same inside’.”

“On the other hand, McDonalds Japan faced online backlash when it aired a commercial where a man was forced to kiss another man as part of a penalty game.”

Nonetheless, Enomoto pointed out that McDonalds’s gaffe wasn’t all bad.

“The fact that McDonalds took down the commercial following the backlash proves that LGBT awareness can be attained if we raise our voices. I think that the situation is improving little by little.”

Source – 空回りする日本のLGBT施策…当事者からの評判はよくない!?

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