Southwestern Japanese department store and bank are phasing out female-only uniform policy



Staff wear female uniforms which will be phased out from September at Tsuruya Department Store in Kumamoto City, as seen in this photo taken on September 20, 2022. (Mainichi/Sonoko Nakamura)

KUMAMOTO — A bank and department store in southwestern Japan are abolishing their female uniform systems in a bid to ensure gender equality and a comfortable working environment.

Employees in the area have been pushing for changes to outdated dress codes, and companies are gradually allowing them to wear personal clothes to work.

Kumamoto City’s Tsuruya Department Store started to abolish rules requiring female employees to wear uniforms in stages from September. It will eventually remove them completely, except for receptionists, by the end of February 2024.

Women’s uniforms were introduced to the department store when it was established in 1952. They are loaned to employees at company expense. Uniform design has been changed about 10 times, and currently there are skirt-type and pantsuit-type uniforms, depending on the department and employee status.

Higo Bank’s women’s uniform, which is expected to be phased out by April 2023, is seen in this photo taken at the bank’s main store in Kumamoto city on September 21, 2022. (Mainichi/Sonoko Nakamura)

However, employees increasingly demanded comfortable clothing and the freedom to choose their own attire. As a result, the department store decided to abolish its uniform system before its renewal. Since late September, it has allowed employees to wear shoes without heels and also plans to allow more staff to wear personal suits and jackets to work.

Mana Ueda, 34, a section chief in the human resources department of Tsuruya Department Store Co., said several employees who had young children or who commuted from distant locations were happy with the decision because they would not have not to spend more time. put on work uniforms. She said: “This is gender discrimination, as uniforms are not issued to men. As duties differ by workplace, employees can also work more comfortably in their personal clothes.”

Meanwhile, at Higo Bank, where around 1,400 female employees have worn skirt-style uniforms and other types of uniforms, a trial began in September for some female employees to wear personal clothes. From October, such a dress code was enforced twice or more times a week for full-time workers, and once or more times a week for part-time workers. The bank makes the wearing of suits and jackets a general rule and aims to abolish uniforms by April 2023.

Aki Ogata, 38, Acting Director of Human Resources Planning and Diversity Promotion Group of Higo Bank, pointed out: “The difference between male and female roles in banks has been gradually eliminated, and we want to enhance the independence and diversity of our employees by allowing them to choose clothing appropriate to the weather, their condition and other factors. Kagoshima Bank based in the city of Kagoshima, also in the Kyushu region, abolished women’s uniforms in April.

Both Tsuruya Department Store and Higo Bank said they surprisingly heard no voices of opposition to the abolition of long-established uniforms. They also said customers were also in favor of the move, with one saying, “It’s nice that they can wear whatever clothes they want.” Eliminating uniforms also benefits the business because it can reduce costs, and more businesses will likely align with changes to a new dress code.

(Japanese original by Sonoko Nakamura, Kumamoto Office)

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