Spring 2015
Published by the Consulate General of Japan in New York / Japan Information Center
What is Womenomics?
  • The Power of Women

    Womenomics. What does it really mean?

    Let us consider one of the biggest challenges currently facing Japan’s economy. Despite recent advancements toward economic recovery, Japan must contend with the reality of an aging population and declining birth rate. In other words, the labor market is shrinking. How does a country sustain economic growth under these conditions?

    One solution is to seek out new workers to join the labor force. In the case of Japan, this means harnessing the power of women, a significant economic resource that has been underutilized in Japan.

    Womenomics is the idea that women’s economic advancement will improve the economy as a whole. Prime Minister Abe has announced it as one of the top priorities of his administration, recognizing that female participation in the economy is relatively low in Japan compared to other developed countries.

    In the Global Gender Gap Report published in 2013 by the World Economic Forum, Japan ranked 105th out of 133 countries. This index ranks gender disparities based on economic, political, education and health criteria, as seen in the graph below. For comparison, the United States ranked 23rd, and the top spot was held by Iceland. The successful implementation of Womenomics is expected to have remarkable results. Increasing female participation in the labor force has been estimated to potentially increase Japan’s GDP by as much as 16%.

    Female to Male Ratios (Global Gender Gap Report 2013, World Economic Forum)

    Womenomics may also be starting to gain broader recognition as a policy goal outside Japan as well. As Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a video message at the World Assembly for Women (WAW!) in Tokyo last year, "… the world cannot make lasting progress if women and girls are denied their rights and left behind. But when we liberate the economic potential of women, we elevate the economic performance of communities, nations and, indeed, the world."
  • A World Where Women Can Shine

    Last year, the World Assembly for Women (WAW!) was held in Tokyo, gathering 100 women leaders from around the globe to discuss ideas about how to “create a world where women can shine.” Notable attendees included Ms. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, as well as powerful female trailblazers from places like Myanmar, Yemen and India.

    It is an unfortunate fact that 70% of the world’s poor are women. Empowering these disadvantaged women not only improves their lives, but allows them to bring up healthy children, and enhances society as a whole. Japan is therefore committed to providing assistance to women abroad as well as at home. This year, women will come together in Tokyo again for the next WAW! on August 28th to 29th to continue to work toward these goals.
  • Moving Forward

    If Womenomics is to succeed in Japan and elsewhere, we must first recognize the cultural and logistical reasons behind low rates of female labor participation. This means creating both job opportunities and support for female workers.

    The Abe administration has set a goal of increasing the active participation of women aged 25-44 in Japan’s workforce to 73% by 2020. It is also encouraging large companies to appoint more women to executive ranks, as it sets an example by proactively appointing women to high-ranking government positions.

    Japan is also working hard to provide greater support for working mothers. Nearly 60% of Japanese women quit their jobs when their first child is born, due in large part to a lack of childcare facilities. Over the past two years, however, 200,000 new openings have been created at childcare centers, and the capacity of such facilities will continue to increase over the next few years.

    Womenomics is a powerful force, which could expand a shrinking labor market, significantly increase GDP and contribute to the health and wellbeing of society. But there is still much work to be done in Japan and around the world before these goals are realized.

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