by Eriko Maruyama
The Japanese society is facing serious economic problems, such as stagnant GDP growth, aging population, raising unemployment rates. In response to these issues, the Japanese government is now trying to encourage women to enter the labour market. The employments of women in Japan are around 60 percent, while those of men are 80 percent (OECD). The Economist magazine (2012) estimated that if this gap of employment rates were improved, GDP of Japan would grow at 9 percent by 2020. As this statistic suggested, it is important to promote women to enter the labour market. In order to achieve this, we need to create new working environment which enables men and women to reconcile their jobs and housework. It is important to target not only women but also men, because the problem of gender is not only about women. It is a problem of both men and women.
Firstly, we need to start with remaking of system of companies. Companies should allow employees to work flexibly. For example, we can work everywhere with high tech devices today. We do not need to go to companies any more. We can have meetings in different places thorough Internet, or we can share documents on web clouds. Thus, companies have become less important places. If employee could do their job at home, they could finish housework and do childcare at the same time.
Nevertheless, still we need to go to work places, especially for people who work for factories and service sector. Therefore, it is necessary to create places which take care of children. There are not enough number of nursery schools and kindergarten in Japan now, so many mothers give up their job and engage in childcare. I would suggest that employing the retired people as carers of children. It is estimated that one of four people would be over 60 by 2030 in Japan, and as we can see, the elderly is very active after retirement. If it was encouraged to employ these active grandparent for taking care of children, parents could engage in their jobs and also the elderly could stay healthy. It is a win-win relation. If the government pushed women into labour force without enough support, women would be blamed for neglecting housework, and this would promote women’s returning to home again. In order to prevent this phenomenon, it is important to enhance the childcare systems.
In short, in order to sustain economic growth in Japan, it is necessary to create more flexible working environment which enables more people to enter labour market. At the same time, the government should implement social policies and provide more childcare systems in order for parents to focus on their jobs. It is expected for government to see gender issue as the interconnected problem of both women and men.
OECD (n.d.). OECD Better Life Index Japan. Retrieved from http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/japan/
The Economist (2012). The Contribution of Women. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/economic-and-financial-indicators/21564857