Japan is becoming even more of a powerhouse as it takes over as the world’s third-largest economy; in turn, however, it seems to be lacking in gender equality. The World Economic Forum released a new ranking for global gender equality, which placed Japan at number 114, a drop from its previous placement at 111.
According to female world leaders, Japan needs to step its game up when it comes to gender equality reforms. An article in the Japan Times reported that, according to an OECD gender report, “Japanese women suffer from one of the worst gender wage gaps in developed economies, earning 25.7 percent less than men.”
Prime Minister Shinzō Abe gave a speech in 2015 where he vowed to place more importance on improving the country so gender equality is a priority. He said, “Since I became Prime Minister of Japan, the fundamental pillar of my policy has been the realization of a society where women shine.”
He also added, “We have set a goal that about 30 percent of leadership positions in the Japanese society be occupied by women by 2020. The Japanese government has taken the initiative and already the percentage of women among newly hired national public servants in Japan has exceeded 30 percent. With this, Japan aims to create a society where it is commonplace for both men and women to share responsibility for work, household chores, and child rearing. We will to address the challenges associated with an aging society and low birthrate before the rest of the world while still realizing economic growth.”
Japan has been making strides to move forward, including increasing child-care facilities so mothers return to work more easily. Since then, the amount of women in the labor market has been growing steadily. The number of women in Japan’s labor market now exceeds the United States.
But the problem isn’t simply giving more opportunities for women to go back to work or having more women present in the workforce; the problem lies in efforts to make more leadership opportunities available to women. In fact, 3.4 percent of publicly listed companies board executives are women. A lot of women in Japan’s workforce are frustrated by the fact that their potential is limited because of a lack of higher leadership opportunities.
Kristalina Georgieva, who gave the keynote speech at the fourth World Assembly for Women in Tokyo, said, “It would not be the first time in history when Japan would come from behind to overcome everybody. Bringing women in Japan to full participation would mean a nine percent bigger GDP, in other words, a richer Japan.”
If Japan can step up and make gender equality a reality, they will – like Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said – “create a world where gender equality and women’s participation become standard and both women and men shine naturally and equally.” Not only would this push for gender equality strengthen the workforce, it will also strengthen Japan as a country.
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