Japan‘s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has excluded those working in the adult entertainment industry from public aid via its Leave Compensation Program — established to help those taking time off of work to care for their children due to nationwide closures of schools in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The move has drawn criticism as overt 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.
“While sex work advocates have been critical of this discriminatory stance, and shed a public spotlight on its seriousness,” Stephen Yagielowiecz writes at XBIZ, “labor minister Katsunobu Kato appears to be uninterested in revisiting the policy.”
The Cabakura Union, which represents workers in Japan’s adult entertainment industry, and its parent organization, the Part-Timer, Arbeiter, Freeter & Foreign Worker Union, challenged the decision.
“Particularly in the service industry and among nighttime occupations,” a union rep explained, “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.”
Japanese media reports scores of people working the adult industry in the notorious Kabukicho part of Tokyo have been confirmed to have COVID-19.