Reviving Japan: From Abenomics to Womenomics

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 9/10/2014 01:30:00 AM
While Japan is a country which much to be proud of, its record in promoting gender equality may not be one of them--yet. Among OECD countries, the wage disparity among sexes is third greatest in Japan after South Korea and Estonia. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently made a gesture towards rebalancing this disparity by appointing five female cabinet ministers, matching the previous record. Why not more, you may ask? Remember that in a parliamentary system like Japan's, cabinet members are not political appointees but sitting ministers. With admittedly few female Liberal Democratic Party parliamentarians, selection is made more difficult:
Japan's prime minister picked five women for his Cabinet on Wednesday, matching the past record and sending the strongest message yet about his determination to change deep-seated views on gender and revive the economy by getting women on board as workers and leaders.

Japan has a vast pool of talented, well-educated women, but they are far under-represented in positions of power in government and corporations. Women make up 10 percent of parliament and just 3.9 percent of board members of listed Japanese companies, versus 12 percent at U.S. corporations and 18 percent in France. Women here have long complained about the obstacles to getting taken seriously at work, receiving equal pay for equal work and finding child care or helpful spouses.
Equality may be a good in itself, but is there reason for us to believe that females are necessarily better administrators, civil servants, lawmakers or managers? Women may be less prone to groupthink and excessively aggressive behavior, true. Moreover, I do not think that Abe is looking to make the opposite argument that women "outdo" men. Rather, they should have equal opportunities insofar as Japan is wasting a lot of talented people for discriminatory reasons. What's more, they may bring a fresh perspective to issues their country is facing:
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated Wednesday that a key part of his "Abenomics" growth strategy is making greater use of women and promoting them to leadership posts — a campaign dubbed "womenomics," a term he has embraced. Abe has set a goal of having women in 30 percent of leadership positions in both the private and public sectors by 2020. "Realizing a society where women can shine is a challenge our Cabinet has undertaken," he said during a news conference. "I look forward to the wind of change these women will bring."
Perhaps these women will finally begin to promote migration into Japan to revive its moribund demographics and hence its economy?

UPDATE: SCMP has a profile of Yuko Obuchi, Japan's new industry minister charged with reinvigorating her country's moribund industrial base. Aged 40, she is the youngest minister in the postwar era. Her job # 1 is restarting nuclear power plants closed in the wake of Fukushima: I have discussed the urgency of doing so before.