Japan and the US: The Bigger Picture

The Results Are In—Womenomics Is Working

Women in Japan are turning their dreams into reality as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s initiatives to get more women in the workforce are taking off. There has been a dramatic transformation—women are achieving their full potential, giving back to their communities and boldly taking their lives in a new direction.

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Since Abe’s government came into power in 2012, more than 1 million women have reentered the workforce to find careers they love. The laser-like focus on improving working conditions for Japanese women has significantly increased the rate of female participation in the job market, and since 2014 that participation rate has been higher than it is in the U.S.

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The recent surge in the employment rate for women is the fulfillment of promises made over decades. Since 1991, Japan’s Parental Leave Law has entitled men and women to take a year off after a child is born. And to get paid to do so! Yet it’s only recently that Japan has seen tangible results from its efforts to create a friendlier workplace, especially for working mothers. Good-bye to working long hours and rushing home to take care of children  as Japan plans to provide enough resources to take care of 500,000 children by 2018. Thus far, the number of women who go back to work after having their first child has increased by more than a third since the establishment of Womenomics.

 

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Of course, change can’t happen without the numbers to track it and back it up. So starting this past April, larger companies across all industries must establish quotas for hiring and promoting women to executive positions and all Japanese companies are strongly encouraged to do so. If you don’t measure something, then you can’t improve on it, so asking for reliable data from companies related to female hiring and promotion practice has created transparency, and encouraged businesses to share advice and best practices. “True reform will not come about unless we have more women becoming leaders in their organizations,” Abe has said.

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These initiatives and others will be discussed on a global stage in December when Japan hosts the third annual World Assembly for Women! (WAW!) meeting in Tokyo. Representatives from around the world will gather to take stock of their progress toward Japan’s vision of creating a society where women shine. Programs like WAW! are essential because they create the platform to help women reach their full potential, make their own choices, and contribute to their communities: they help make the business case for more and powerful women in the workplace. Continued support from governments and companies around the world goes a long way to improving the economy and creating opportunities for women to live self-determined lives.