Skeptics of Abe's new feminism also cite his long advocacy of traditional gender roles and opposition to Japan's constitutional rights for women. He has not supported the right of women to retain their own names or female succession to emperor. Even his position on Comfort Women is framed in traditionalist notions of women. Nevertheless, Abe has made "womenomics," a concept first penned by Goldman Sachs' Kathy Matsui in 2000, a key component of his Abenomics.
On June 3rd, the WEF Forum released Closing the Gender Gap in Japan. The report identifies three areas, in particular, where Japan is falling behind.
First, the participation gap: Japan has one of the lowest female labour participation rates among OECD countries. Only 63% of women work, compared to 85% of men; female employees are more than three times as likely as male employees to work part-time. Goldman Sachs estimates that closing the participation gap could boost Japan’s GDP by 13%. It is especially necessary given the country’s demographic outlook – the labour force is shrinking, the old age dependency ratio is growing and the fertility rate is one of the world’s lowest.
The second gap that needs to be addressed is the remuneration gap: on average, women earn only slightly over half of what men earn. This can only partially be explained by women working disproportionately in lower-paying professions; Japan ranks 87th globally in wage gaps for similar work, according to a survey of executives.
Finally, there is the advancement gap: while women comprise nearly half of all professional and technical workers, they make up only 9% of legislators, senior officials and managers. Encouragingly, investments already made in closing the education gap – women’s rate of enrolment in tertiary education now nearly matches that of men – mean that Japan is ideally poised for efforts to close the advancement gap.
The US-Asia Institute will hold a timely conference in Washington on June 17th that is open to the public to discuss all these issues.
June 17, 2014
Capitol Visitors Center 203-02
His Excellency Kenichiro SASAE, Ambassador from Japan
Ambassador Constance A. Morella, President, U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress
Ms. Rui MATSUKAWA
Director, Gender Mainstreaming Division, Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Featuring: Dr. Stephan DANNINGER, Senior Economist, International Monetary Fund
Ms. Tracey DOI, Group Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc.
Mr. Terry TERASAWA, Chief Representative, The Bank of Tokyo
MODERATOR: Ambassador Constance MORELLA, President, U.S. Association of Former members of Congress
Panel 2: US-Japan Development Cooperation: Assistance for the Empowerment of women in Developing Countries
Framing the Discussion/Moderator: Ms. Manisa SINGH, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
Respondents: Mr. Hajime TAKEUSHI, Chief Representative, JICA, USA Offices,
Ms. Sheila SMITH, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies, Council on Foreign Relations,
Mme Gouri MIRPURI, Founder, Learning Farm/HUB