Ja­pan re­quires com­pa­nies to set goals in hir­ing fe­male ex­ecs

The Pak Banker - - BUSINESS -

Ja­panese law­mak­ers ap­proved a law Fri­day re­quir­ing large em­ploy­ers to set and pub­li­cise tar­gets for hir­ing or pro­mot­ing women as man­agers.

The law ap­proved by a vote of 230-1 in the House of Coun­cil­lors is in­tended to pro­mote greater gen­der equal­ity and counter labour short­ages that are aris­ing as Ja­pan's pop­u­la­tion ages and declines. The de­ci­sion co­in­cided with an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence show­cas­ing Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe's com­mit­ment to in­creas­ing the share of women in lead­er­ship po­si­tions to 30 per cent.

Ja­pan now lags

most

other in­dus­trial coun­tries in this re­spect, and Abe has spear­headed var­i­ous em­pow­er­ment ini­tia­tives, vow­ing to make it a so­ci­ety where "women shine." The law is ef­fec­tive for the com­ing 10 years and ap­plies to com­pa­nies with 300 em­ploy­ees or more. Small and medium com­pa­nies ac­count for more than 99 per cent of all com­pa­nies and more than 70 per cent of all em­ploy­ment in Ja­pan, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment data. It also only re­quires that tar­gets be set, not met, and does not ad­dress a lack of en­force­ment of ex­ist­ing re­quire­ments for com­pa­nies to give equal pay for equal work.

Pro­vi­sions for

en­sur­ing

such equal treat­ment for con­tract or part­time work­ers have been wa­tered down in re­cent labour re­form leg­is­la­tion, says Richard Katz of the Ori­en­tal Economist. "The Abe Ad­min­is­tra­tion had a chance this year to do some­thing that would be gen­uinely ef­fec­tive in rais­ing wages: putting in a solid equal pay for equal work pro­vi­sion in the law. In­stead, it took the op­po­site tack and ac­tively de­feated the at­tempt," Katz wrote in a re­cent re­search pa­per.

Of­fi­cials say the gov­ern­ment plans to pub­licly recog­nise com­pa­nies that make progress to­ward their tar­gets and give them pref­er­ence in win­ning public con­tracts. "The great- est chal­lenge fac­ing Ja­pan is our de­clin­ing pop­u­la­tion, brought about by our age­ing so­ci­ety and fall­ing birth rate," Abe told the con­fer­ence of mostly Ja­panese and for­eign women. "We will more proac­tively value and sup­port com­pa­nies work­ing to pro­vide a sound work-life bal­ance," he said.

Nearly half of all women stop work­ing to raise young chil­dren and then re­turn to part-time or con­trac­tual work that pays much less than ca­reer track jobs.

Ja­pan's rigid cor­po­rate cul­ture, with long hours and lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties for women, means they are only about 11 per cent of all man- agers and su­per­vi­sors in Ja­pan. The gov­ern­ment ex­ceeded its tar­get of in­creas­ing the num­ber of women it hired for ca­reer track po­si­tions to 34.4 per cent. It has also re­quired pub­licly listed com­pa­nies to re­port the num­ber of women on their boards of di­rec­tors. Abe said that fig­ure has in­creased by about a third since he took of­fice.

Women work­ing in man­age­rial po­si­tions in the gov­ern­ment say that con­di­tions are fair, but that work­ing hours re­main pun­ish­ingly long. Ha­rass­ment of work­ing moth­ers is so en­demic that Ja­panese have coined an ex­pres­sion for it, "mata-hara," or ma­ter­nity ha­rass­ment.

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