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Japan’s shrinking population is forcing the country to look for new workers.
And Prime Minister Shinzo Abe thinks he’s found the answer... women.
Abe has outlined goals to create a “Japan in which women shine”.
The name given to it: “Womenomics.”
But while Womenomics has seen some success getting more women into the workforce,
it still faces serious cultural hurdles.
This is your Bloomberg QuickTake on the challenge of breaking down gender bias in Japan.
By 2020, Abe wants 30% of leadership positions to be filled by women.
He’s urged listed companies to appoint women to executive and managerial roles.
And he’s working to fix Japan’s daycare shortage, while encouraging workplaces to be
more accommodating, so that mothers will feel more inclined to rejoin the labor force.
And it is working… sort of.
Female labor participation rate rose from 46.2% in 2012 to 49.8% in 2017.
Isabel Reynolds: But most of the women that have been added to the workforce are working
in these relatively low-paid, part-time jobs.
There's kind of a mismatch there with his goal of getting more women into management.
Although Abe frequently touts the success of “Womenomics”, a closer look highlights
a work culture that systematically excludes women.
An expectation that women should stay at home and be primary caregivers has held them back
in workplaces all over the world, but in Japan that view is particularly deep-rooted.
A 2016 poll found that 45% of the men surveyed agreed that “women-should-stay-at-home”.
Japan also has the third-highest gender pay gap in the more developed OECD countries.
Although companies such as Toyota are appointing female executives, change has been slow.
Only 4% of managerial positions are held by women in Japan compared with 9% in China and
17% in the US.
Isabel Reynolds: It's just very much the working culture has built up around men and around
the long hours they work.
It can be very bonding, they go out drinking together in the evening, and women simply
don't fit into that cozy little world in a lot of cases.
On top of that, just a tenth of the members of Japan’s lower house are women, ranking
the nation among the lowest in female political representation in the world.
Isabel Reynolds: If you look at Prime Minister Abe's cabinet, he in fact only has two women,
at the moment, out of 20.
So he's not really reaching his own target of having 30% of management positions taken
up by women.
Some say quotas should ultimately be legally binding for real change to come about.
Such measures could have great economic benefit --including one report suggesting that gender
parity could add $550 billion to Japan’s gdp.
Isabel Reynolds: I don't think we're going see a transformation overnight, or in the
next couple of years.
These people are obviously at the bottom of the ladder in the corporate world, so they're
not going to be the ones deciding how the corporate culture works for some time.
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Why Japan's Women Problem Is So Hard to Fix

2181 Folder Collection
Samuel published on October 9, 2018    irene Hu translated    Evangeline reviewed
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