Japan faces a looming labor crisis—and it’s counting on women to save the day.
The country’s shrinking, rapidly aging population poses a major threat to the future of the Japanese economy. In order to avoid a potential meltdown, the government is attempting to encourage more women to join the workforce through its “Creating a Society in which All Women Shine” initiative, which is better known as Womenomics. But while the government says it wants to help women break the glass ceiling, its focus seems to be solely on what women can do for Japan—not what Japan can do for women.
But there’s a significant problem with Womenomics: There’s not much in it for women.
Here are some of the issues:
- Japanese women are typically more highly educated than their male peers. But they generally leave the workforce and the career track after a few years to have a family.
- women in Japan receive nearly 30% less pay than their male counterparts.
- On top of economic disincentives, office culture in Japan is often incompatible with raising a family.
- And pregnant female employees regularly experience a form of workplace bullying called “maternity harassment,” wherein women are often demoted or forced to quit soon after becoming pregnant.
But there is another way the government can empower and promote women in the workforce, not just use them as labor: Authorities must work to truly change the culture of work itself in Japan by encouraging a better work-life balance—one that encourages men to step up, lean in, and help with raising children.