Statement on the Enactment of the Act to Partially Amend the Civil Code to Lower the Age of Adulthood
Today, the Act to Partially Amend the Civil Code (“Act”) was enacted by the Diet and the age of adulthood set forth in the Civil Code has been lowered to 18 from 20.
The JFBA has repeatedly expressed its opinion that any steps to lower the age of adulthood in the Civil Code should be taken attentively considering the great impact on the lives of citizens. Despite that, it is regrettable that the revision to the law was made hastily without deliberation.
The Act was introduced in line with the lowering of the voting age associated with the enactment of the Act on Procedures for Amendment of the Constitution of Japan (commonly called the “National Referendum Law”) and the revision of the Public Offices Election Law. However, in the first place, it is not necessary for the age of adulthood to be the same as the voting age. It is said that lowering the age of adulthood allows young people to participate earlier in society and assume proactive roles in various fields of society, and thereby Japanese society, in which the population is rapidly aging and its birthrate dropping sharply, will be much more vitalized. However, such benefits are not proven sufficiently and not persuasive enough as a legislative fact. Further, each public opinion poll indicates that not so many citizens in Japan are in favor of lowering the age of adulthood.
At the same time, there are concerns that many issues may arise by lowering the age of adulthood, such as increased detriment to consumers due to young people from 18 to 19 years old losing the annulment right provided to minors (in Article 5.2 of the Civil Code), and issues related to lowering the age of children who should be subject to parental authority, which include the increase of young people who get into trouble making an independent living, the increase of difficulties in providing student guidance at high-school, and the possible early termination of child support payments. The Legislative Council of the Ministry of Justice on lowering the age of adulthood in the Civil Code advised in October 2009 that it is appropriate to lower the age of adulthood to 18 years old, while attaching the following conditions: (i) Measures to promote the independence of young people, as well as those to address the increased detriment to consumers, should be implemented; (ii) Satisfactory results from the measures implemented should be achieved; and (iii) Public awareness of the effects from the implemented measures should be promoted. However, at present, such conditions have barely been achieved. In fact, most of the witnesses called into the current Diet session clearly expressed the current state of conditions that were mostly unfulfilled. Especially, in order to address the possible expansion of detriment to young consumers, measures against the absence of the annulment right provided to minors must be implemented, but the Act to Partially Amend the Consumer Contract Act enacted in the current Diet session deals only with very limited consumer damage, which is totally inadequate as a measure intended to protect young people who might be subject to the difficulties involved with lowering the age of adulthood.
Thus, the JFBA regretfully reiterates that the enactment and enforcement of the Act were conducted in a very premature way. In order to ensure that the anticipated negative effects noted above are not be realized, the JFBA calls for the immediate implementation of effectual measures, in addition to the appreciable improvement of surrounding circumstances such as raising awareness among the public about lowering the age of adulthood and its resulting effects.
June 13, 2018
Japan Federation of Bar Associations