#Asia Japan’s Rakuten revises definition of ‘spouse’, extends benefits to same-sex partners


It also announced today a host of LGBTQ-friendly initiatives and highlighted the diversity programmes within the company

Gay flag (1)

Citing a desire to cultivate diversity, Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten today made public a broad revision in its internal employment policy by redefining the definition of ‘spouse’ in order to extend benefit packages to same-sex partners.

The benefits include congratulations leave when partners officiate the partnership and condolence leave should a spouse die, which includes consolation payments.

Same-sex marriage is illegal in Japan and before today the Rakuten had only recognised official marriage certificates under Japanese law, a policy which would have made it impossible for LGBTQ couples to receive the benefits.

The changes were officially approved during a board of directors meeting held today.

Furthermore, the company launched a series of wide-ranging initiatives in support of the LGBTQ community, such as the wedding venue search service Rakuten Wedding including options for same-sex couples.

Other actions include: releasing Viber chat stickers in support of the LGBTQ community, allowing same-sex families to join the ‘family plan’, accepting same-sex partners on the Rakuten Life Insurance plan and the release of a rainbow designed card on the prepay money service Rakuten Edy.

“Rakuten brings together people from many different backgrounds and we are very proud to support and provide a diverse and inclusive workplace with services and benefits that recognize same-sex partners,” said Rakuten Chief People Officer and Managing Executive Officer, Akio Sugihara, in a statement.

Also Read: Rakuten partners with e-commerce firm Kaola to bring Japanese goods to Chinese consumers

The company said that because of its push towards globalising the product and building and english-first company, the number of non-Japanese employees has increased significantly. As a result, the company created an internal Diversity and Inclusion Group, which prompted a request from Rakuten’s LGBTQ employees for today’s changes.

In June, a group of employees launched an education initiative within the company to foster internal collaboration and further education about LGBTQ issues.

Also Read: Rakuten Ventures gets a cool new US$100M in its Global Investment Fund

In a global context, Japan is relatively progressive on the issue of LGBTQ rights. Gay people in the country still deal with ostracisation, abuse and violence but last July two neighborhoods in Tokyo began issuing same-sex partnership papers.

According to Equaldex, 54 per cent of Japanese said society should support the LGBT community. For context, in the United States (which has legalised same-sex marriage) that number is 60 per cent and in Singapore (in which sex between gay males is illegal) the number is 21.8 per cent.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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