One of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s programs in his electoral campaign was to boost female employment in government. However, more than a year since gaining the position of premier, females in civil service remain scarce, and it seems that things will continue that way unless Abe’s administration does something drastic.
It’s not like there are no females qualified to handle management positions in the government. The challenge with employing more females to increase the current 3% rate is luring them away from the private sector. Gender Equality Minister Masako Mori said, “Unless they appoint people from outside, they won’t make the target.” Mori notes that long working hours and lack of child care facilities for women in the civil service has hampered women’s interest in working in the sector. Motohiro Morishima, professor at Hitotsubashi University, echoed the same sentiment. “Extreme working hours are taken as a matter of course among senior bureaucrats, which has been a barrier to women with families,” he said.
Programs to enable more children enrolled in day care facilities have helped women go back to the workforce. However, the number still remains very low from the projected target, in spite of being a record high gain since 1991. Mori noted that while Japan does not have a “glass ceiling,” “glass stones” are in place. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development submitted a proposal to Abe last week encouraging more programs for women to get back to the workforce and address the nation’s shrinking labor force. Abe has yet to make a decision on the proposal.