Several smart and educated women inhabit Japan, who could be urging the country out of its prevalent economic nose-dive to a spellbound pandemic recuperation.
However, Japan’s stringent hiring system and male-dominated leadership continue to remain a major hurdle, by refraining women to bag some of the best-paying jobs.
The nation is jeopardizing itself and emerging as a nation filled with jaded homemakers with university degrees, say critics.
Japan’s target to suggestively increase the number of females in leadership roles by 2020 came and went in the dusk of 2020 without achieving the targeted goal.
Shinzo Abe’s policy, dubbed as “Womenomics”, to establish a Japan in which female counterparts can gleam has seen major failure. The reason for this does not reside in the bosom of the pandemic.
At present, only 1 woman for every 10 men is housed in the parliament. Lesser than 15% of the senior private sector roles are driven by women, according to BBC News. These statistics are half the achievements targeted by the 2020 goal.
Shinzo Abe, former Japanese Prime Minister, still claims that the Womenomics policy was a great success. Abe vouched that after the execution of the policy, the country has witnessed a higher percentage of working women.
However, critics believe that Mr. Abe’s policy had little to do with social transformation, and more to do with a major necessity for an increased workforce.
For several years, around 60% of women in Japan quit their jobs after the birth of their first kid. Traditionally, the mother was expected to look after her children whilst the father earned bread for the family. It was viewed as a privilege.
However, as the Womenomics policy was born, mothers started making a comeback to work to support their family’s income.
Government figures showed that in 2019 only 42.1% of women resigned their jobs, taking the labor market participation rates to 70.9% for women aged between 15 and 64 years. The participation rate for the 25 to 44 years of age category rose to 77.7%.
To sustain this drastic shift, the government released campaigns to demolish childcare waiting lists. It also forced big firms to have at least 1 female executive on their payrolls. However, there were no monetary motivations or forfeits for firms that failed to take action.
Subsequently, several women are jammed within part-time or dead-end jobs. On average, a Japanese woman earns more than 40% lesser than a Japanese man, according to the World Economic Forum.
Joining the Japanese Workforce
Over 50% of Japanese women enter job roles holding a university degree. This is equal to the number of Japanese men joining the workforce with a university degree. However, once one leaves a job, it is almost impossible to make a comeback to one’s original career after a duration of inactivity.
Career consultant at Warc Agent, Yumiko Suzuki, indicated to BBC that if one wants to get back to one’s job after resignation, one had to seek opportunities at supermarkets where students actively seek part-time jobs. Fifteen years ago, Ms. Suzuki opted to drop out of her career to become a homemaker. Her tale is quite typical. Post her university graduation, she worked as ardently as her male colleagues, just to prove her worth. However, after meeting her spouse, the family decided that one of them must resign to look after their kids. Inevitably, Ms. Suzuki was the one who forfeited her career.
At present, working mothers are given the choice to opt for shorter work periods with flexible timing, something that was not available to Ms. Suzuki back in 2006. She added that she and her spouse were completely committed to their work and that starting a family in this fashion was next to impossible.
However, 7 years later after carrying out her role as a stay-at-home mom with two children, Ms. Suzuki decided to get back to her career. She was shocked to realize that her duration at home was perceived as a demerit on her resume. She couldn’t even bag a single interview. Eventually, she had to earn three professional certificates to be offered a job at a start-up firm. Today, she aids other women to restart their work lives.
The challenge resides inside the stringent Japanese hiring practices. The lifetime employment system fabricated to recuperate the economy post the second World War is not ardently communicating the rules. Major firms continue to hire freshers every spring and offer them a place in their company for life.
If one tends to miss on such an opportunity, one would have to face several challenges to find another job.
A gap on one’s resume is also dejected by numerous companies as they still utilize a seniority-centric evaluation system – the older one gets, the further one’s career matures. Capabilities are always secondary.
The navigation of change in Japan
The Country Manager of the LOF Hotel group, Cynthia Usui, is constantly employing ex-homemakers and single moms who regularly tussle to bag jobs at big-time traditional firms.
For 17 years, Ms. Usui was a stay-at-home mother who resumed work at the age of 47. Her first job after the big gap was in her child’s school cafeteria.
She openly spoke about how the Japanese government was spending bundles of money to train Japanese men in their 50s and 60s via Silver Human Resources Centers. She indicated that the same monetary aids must be directed towards ex-homemakers who were trying to resume their careers.
Ms. Matsui expressed her frustration as the masses did not comprehend that Womenomics could facilitate an improved financial performance to boost the economic growth of Japan. She stated that people still support the idea of equality in human rights, however, a vast population still does not comprehend its significance.
Companies in Japan have been hesitant to publicly commit to the surging number of females in their workspaces. However, in the end, the navigation for change could arrive from MNCs like Ms. Matsui’s former company – Goldman Sachs. The firm accustoms to the goal of gender equality while employing graduates. When the firm struggles to find deserving female applicants for fresher engineering posts, it started facilitating coding workshops.