TOKYO -- The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has excluded those working in the adult entertainment industry from its leave compensation program for those taking time off of work to care for their children due to nationwide closures of schools in response to the new coronavirus, a move that has drawn criticism for occupational discrimination.
The labor ministry has explained that it determined that the industry type -- which includes nightclubs and other establishments that entail entertainment and sex work -- as "unworthy of receiving public funds."
But on Twitter and elsewhere, people have protested, saying that "withholding assistance to people engaging in a specific type of work when this is a matter of life or death is discrimination."
The ministry's program compensates companies up to 8,330 yen per person per day for employees who are taking paid leave to care for their children who attend day care centers and elementary or special education schools. In addition, freelancers who meet certain criteria are also eligible to receive 4,100 yen per person per day if they need to take time off from work to care for their children due to the school shutdowns.
According to the ministry, those involved in the entertainment, restaurant and sex industries, alongside organized crime group members and organizations that have carried out or potentially will carry out terroristic and destructive activities, are ineligible for the public assistance.
People have taken to Twitter and other platforms to criticize the ministry's policy, making such comments as, "This is outright discrimination," and "There are a lot of single mothers who work in the adult entertainment and sex industries to earn a living. They need assistance."
SWASH, an organization comprising people working in the sex industry and their supporters, submitted a request to the labor ministry on April 2, asking that the criteria for receiving assistance be reconsidered, saying that "the right to life of all parents and children should be protected," and that "discrimination against people working in the sex industry will be furthered by (making people in the sex industry ineligible for assistance)."
A labor ministry official said, "Not just with this particular assistance program, but with all subsidy programs regarding employment, people in these types of occupations are ineligible. We determined that it would be inappropriate to use public funds to subsidize even business operators who have obtained legal permission under the Act on Control and Improvement of Amusement Business, etc."
In Tokyo, where the novel coronavirus has spread, Gov. Yuriko Koike has said, "There are many cases in which it is speculated that people have contracted the virus at establishments operating at nighttime," and has called on patrons to refrain from going to such establishments. At the same time, she has said that she would be asking the central government to provide assistance to operators and staff of establishments that would be impacted by the request, and that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government would also be considering its own measures.
The Part-Timer, Arbeiter, Freeter & Foreign Worker Union, of which the Cabakura Union -- for those in the adult entertainment and sex industry -- is a member, has released a statement seeking compensation from the government, saying, "Particularly in the service industry and among nighttime occupations, the slump in business will become even harsher. Without any compensation or benefits, all we can do is to wait for our lives to collapse."
At a press conference on April 3, labor minister Katsunobu Kato suggested that he has no intention to review the current arrangement.
(Japanese original by Satoko Nakagawa, Integrated Digital News Center)