女性活躍法 長時間労働の是正が不可欠だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Shortening long working hours vital for women’s active participation in society
女性活躍法 長時間労働の是正が不可欠だ

With the workforce shrinking, it is increasingly important to improve the working environment for women to enable them to fulfill their potential.

“The final curtain has been drawn on the era in which people ask why we promote the dynamic engagement of women in society. Now is the time for us to discuss how to bring it into reality,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at an international symposium held last week.

By a majority vote supported by parties including the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan and Komeito, a new bill was recently enacted to promote the active engagement of women in society. We hope this law will help accelerate efforts in this regard by both the public and private sectors.

The new law makes it obligatory for companies with a workforce of at least 301 people to draw up and publicize action programs to promote women, including numerical targets. Companies with 300 or fewer employees are only urged to make efforts to compile action programs.

What the numerical targets apply to and their specific levels are to be decided by the companies themselves, depending on the situation of each company. Envisaged numerical targets include the number of women hired and the percentage of managerial positions held by women. There are no penalties for failing to reach the targets.

The hiring of women and their promotion to executive posts vary by industry and by company. It is realistic for the government to let companies decide these targets on their own, instead of establishing unified standards.

By also establishing a system for the government to recognize companies that excel in meeting their targets, the new law will encourage companies to tackle these tasks proactively. It is important for each company to decide on effective targets and plans.

Diversity benefits companies

The government aims to have 30 percent of leadership positions held by women by 2020. The present figure in Japanese companies is 11 percent, far below U.S. and European companies where the number ranges from 30 to 40 percent.

Utilizing diverse human resources should enhance companies’ creativity and improve their competitiveness. Some companies have already started publicizing their numerical targets and expanding on-the-job training for women.

Both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors have passed an additional resolution to the new law that calls for companies to adjust the wage gap between men and women, and implement measures to improve the treatment of non-regular workers.

A majority of working women are low-wage, non-regular employees, such as part-timers. Improving the treatment of these female workers is essential in making the new law function effectively. The government must push forward a concrete study of this issue.

Regarding the promotion of women’s active participation in society, Abe also pointed out that “Our greatest barrier is a working culture that endorses male-centered long working hours.”

Calling on women also to be actively engaged in work, while leaving most of the household chores and child rearing to them, would only generate resentment among women. It is urgent to review how people work, correcting the long working hours and encouraging men to participate more in household chores and child rearing.

Companies also need to shift to employment management and personnel evaluations that are based on the premise of supporting employees’ work-life balance.

There must also be reform of the tax and social insurance system, which presently make it more advantageous for women to be dependent on their spouses than to work outside the home.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 3, 2015)Speech

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