Japan PM Abe to launch 'Davos meeting for women'

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a joint press conference with his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott at the Parliament House in Canberra on July 8, 2014. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to launch a female-focused version of
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a joint press conference with his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott at the Parliament House in Canberra on July 8, 2014. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to launch a female-focused version of the Davos economic forum, as part of a wider push to boost the number of women in the workforce at home, he said in an interview published on Tuesday. -- PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to launch a female-focused version of the Davos economic forum, as part of a wider push to boost the number of women in the workforce at home, he said in an interview published on Tuesday.

The premier said Tokyo would host the event in September with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde and Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, set to participate.

The conservative Abe has been pushing to boost the number of working women in Japan to help kickstart growth in the world's number three economy.

The country has one of the lowest rates of female workforce participation in the developed world and most economists agree it badly needs to boost the number of working women to grow its economy as the population rapidly ages.

But a lack of childcare facilities, poor career support and deeply entrenched sexism are blamed for keeping women at home, and for one of the lowest birthrates among the developed world as young women see having children as obstacles to their careers.

"Women have the greatest potential, and allowing them to demonstrate their full abilities is the core of our growth strategy," Abe said in the interview with Japan's leading Nikkei business daily during an official visit to Australia.

"This will be a Davos meeting for women," he said, referring to the World Economic Forum event held annually in the Swiss city.

The issue of entrenched sexism within Japanese society was highlighted last month after Tokyo city council members from Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party hurled sexist jeers at an assembly women during a debate on motherhood.

The planned Tokyo conference would look at ways to link female participation in the workforce with economic growth, the Nikkei story said.