In line with the celebration of the Women’s Month/International Women’s Day, which is usually held in March, this blog shall specifically delve on Japan’s innovative set of policies called “Womenomics” which was formulated primarily to complement “Abenomics” and to revitalize Japan’s long-moribund economy. Under the said revitalization program, Japan’s Government is set to implement pro-women economic measures which empower Japanese women to play a vital role in the workplace.
Despite its prosperity and being one of the G7 industrialized nations, Japan is still faced with mounting challenges. While the global economy inched up in terms of economic growth, Japan’s economy sharply slowed down compared to its other G7 friends due to some disappointing internal factors such as private consumption, business investments, tax hikes, and other economic variables.
In view of this, the present administration of Japan under Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe designed “Abenomics” to reform structures and policies so as to boost domestic demand and GDP, increase competition, promoting trade partnerships, etc., including women empowerment. Abe wants “to create a society in which women shine”! He wants women in Japan to play a vital role in the workplace, particularly in senior management positions. As a matter of fact, PM Abe did appoint the first Japanese female premier in Japan’s history a female adviser in Japan’s cabinet.
Japanese culture which has been there for decades shows that majority (about 70%) of married women in their early 20s and 30s quit jobs after giving birth. This was also confirmed by a study conducted by a human resource company in Japan. Traditionally, Japanese women look after the day to day operations at home, taking care and rearing kids, keeping up daily finances and household items and other domestic matters. According to the said study, Japanese women only account for 1.1% of executive posts in the working world compared to the women in the United States which occupy 14%. Similarly, some analysts and financial advisors observed that Japanese women are the underutilized human resource in Japan and therefore concluded that should these women be tapped, Japan could increase its GDP by as much as 13-15%. It was found out that just like in other countries, women learn faster, communicate better and are more eager and confident than men. Hence, “Womenomics”!
Among others, Womenomics is set to achieve by 2020 for women to occupy 30% of leadership positions in both private and public sectors in Japan and for parents to have access to childcare and nursing services, promoting better conditions for women at work. However, the positive effects of this policy are still uncertain. There are challenges along the way. There are so many things to be done regarding the social inequality between Japanese women and men, e.g. wide disparity in salaries, flexible working arrangements, and the marginalization of women even in politics, among others. All these factors have yet to be restructured and implemented.
Majority of the Japanese are still skeptical about “Womenomics”. Some opined that the earlier instituted policy, “Abenomics” “has done nothing for women, children and low-income people.” They felt that a minority 1%, those families belonging to the top echelons of society could have benefited from it but not the majority of working class. How much more for “Womenomics” ?
The beauty and the impact of “Womenomics” to the country’s economy remains to be seen! But at least Japan’s Government took a bold move, making its first leap ever to recognize the importance of Japanese women in the society, specifically those who have been deprived of employment related benefits for the longest time ever, and that’s the most important thing! So, for Japan’s smart ladies and supermoms out there, you have to get out from your shell, make yourselves “shine” not only to your family, your husbands and kids, but in your surroundings, particularly in your work environment as well. If your hands were able to rock the cradle, it would definitely be able to make it there and rock the boardrooms!
Happy Women’s month to all ladies and women out there in the whole wide world!
Incidentally, I was invited to participate in one of the discussions regarding “Womenomics” scheduled last 16th of March held at the Asia Society Policy Institute. Naoko Ogawa was one of the panelists/speakers. She is the Senior Manager for Women’s Empowerment at Keidanren, the most influential business organization in Japan. She is in- charge of coordinating with the Japanese corporations for the implementation of “Womenomics”.