Japanese government releases first female empowerment guidelines
Japan’s first guidelines on female empowerment were released today in an effort to enable women to play a more active role in society, the Japan Times reports.
Ministries are expected to draft budget requests for the 2016 fiscal year reflecting the policy. The government will renew the guidelines every year before ministries begin drafting their budgets, a Cabinet Office official said.
Acting on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent push for a society where “all women can shine,” the guidelines state that the use of “female power” is essential to sustain growth at a time when the population is shrinking and rapidly graying, and call for a legal revision to force companies to prevent the maltreatment of pregnant women or mothers with young children.
They also call for bolstering efforts to increase the number of women in science and engineering, and for rewarding companies that promote a healthy work-life balance with preferential treatment for public contracts.
The government also plans to revise the equal employment opportunity law, to guard against so-called maternity harassment: the managerial victimization of women who become pregnant.
One idea being considered is creating a consultation system for women who feel they have been treated unfairly, the Cabinet Office official said.
The current law bans maternity harassment but fails to stipulate preventive measures.
Also included in the guidelines is a reinterpretation of the equal employment opportunity law, which bans companies from specifying gender when advertising jobs. The reinterpretation allows easier recruitment of female mid-career managers.
There are few women in the senior ranks of the Japanese civil service. EY’s Worldwide Women Public Sector Leaders Index 2014 – which ranks countries across the G20 by the percentage of women in senior central government public sector positions – ranked Japan second to last, only behind Saudi Arabia. In 2014, this percentage was 1.8% – down from 2.5% in 2013.
Speaking to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, Yoko Hayashi – the first Japanese to chair the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women – illustrated the scale of the issue: “These 30 years, when Japan remained at a standstill in gender equality, saw a dramatic change in the world. The United Nations aims at achieving the 50-50 ratio of men to women in leadership positions by 2020.”