Let women advance in Japan

(English translation of post November 19)

At the confirmation hearing in Washington, Ms. Caroline Kennedy mentioned that enhancement of women’s activity is her priority matter together with education exchanges.

How we can enhance female activity is extremely important for Japan’s future vitality. There are many things to be done in this area.

For example, although women do better than men in written part of government officials examination for service, through interview process, men eventually outnumber women in passing the exam. Is it fair?

Why women’s advance in society is not easy in Japan?

One reason could be that women tend to resign from work after getting married. Another reason could be related to the cultural climate of Japan that most men still do not do much housekeeping. Moreover, it is still usually hard for women to return to her workplace after maternity leave. It is difficult to manage both a career and a family in such a Japanese system.

 Any solution?

 Asking companies to make it easier for women to return to their job after maternity leave is of course indispensable. But it is not enough.

 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to aim for the policy to extend the maternity leave to be granted until a child reaches the age of 3 (now 1 and a half years) and to increase the number of day-care centers in five years so that there will be no waiting children.

 Incidentally, the DPJ (the Democratic Party of Japan) Administration increased the number of day-care centers while they were in power. The number increased from 22,925 in 2009 to 23,069 in 2010, and it increased to 23,385 in 2011, and to 23,711 in 2012. (Source: Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare Press Releases)

 It is to be noted that the City of Yokohama actually achived their target to make the number of waiting children zero by doubling the number of day-care centers run by companies.

 The experiences of Sweden and France should also be noted.

 In Sweden, it is said that the ratio of women in the management is more than 30%. This may be because of the fact that the Swedish social security system is composed not on family unit but rather on individual unit. Incidentally, at a Swedish company in Japan, you not only enjoy a maternity leave, but also ‘daddy leave.’ You are also encouraged to take all paid holidays.

 I hear that in France PACS helped women advance in the society by extending public support even to the unmarried couples.

 To grapple the issue fundamentally, it is of utmost important to raise consciousness regarding this issue through education.