Japan plans law to boost women's role in society

TOKYO (THE JAPAN NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Japanese government has decided to establish a law to promote women's participation in society by prompting local governments and businesses to compile action plans to promote women to higher positions.

It aims to submit the bill to the Diet, potentially as soon as this autumn's extraordinary session.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has set the promotion of women's participation in society as one of the major pillars of his growth strategy, with a goal of having 30 percent of all leadership positions filled by women by 2020.

The new law is aimed at having businesses accelerate their efforts to achieve this goal. It will call on them to make their own action plans for promoting women to higher positions, and clearly list in their financial statements the percentage of women among their board members and managers, to let the public know how actively women participate in their companies.

To make the new law effective, the government is considering introducing a system in which it preferentially buys products from firms that actively promote women, or awards orders to such firms for projects subsidized by the government.

The government is also considering making it compulsory for businesses of a certain size to compile an action plan. But this will require coordination with the business community, which has been cautious toward such plans, saying they will greatly affect their management.

Moves to promote women have been spreading since Abe called in April last year for listed companies to have at least one female board member. According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry's basic survey on wage structure, the percentage of women in managerial positions at private firms with 100 or more employees increased slightly to 7.5 per cent in 2013 from 6.9 per cent in 2012.

However, the pace of improvement remains slow, prompting the government to decide a new law was necessary to accelerate moves to achieve its goal.

At an international conference for businesswomen held by a private body in Tokyo on Sunday, Abe again expressed his desire for women to make up at least 30 percent of the national public service personnel hired next fiscal year.

"The test is coming over whether we can create a society in which women can flourish," Abe said.

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