Women and Japan’s upcoming election

12/13/2012
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Yukiko Kada, who heads the Tomorrow Party of Japan, is rarity in Japan’s political arena. As a female politician, she is a minority and hopes to change this by making more opportunities for the country’s future female population.

TOKYO (majirox news) — The issue of women’s place in society is rarely discussed in Japan’s upcoming national election. Only two women are leaders of the 12 “third force” parties competing for seats in parliament. The campaign platform of the Tomorrow Party of Japan includes utilizing more women in the country’s workplace.

“Seventy percent of Japanese women quit their jobs after their first child,” said Yukiko Kada, leader of the Tomorrow Party of Japan and governor of Shiga. “We need to ensure that child-rearing becomes a shared responsibility involving the homes, schools and communities.

“This helps women so they are not denied career opportunities when they marry or give birth. In fact, if the gender gap were closed, many of our economic troubles would disappear, and our competitiveness would increase.”

Earlier this year in Tokyo, the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Legarde, at a conference in Tokyo claimed that opening Japan’s workplaces to women could rescue the country’s under-performing economy.

Tsuji Yusaku, director of the Strategy for Gender Equality Institute, said, “However, Japan lacks a sense of urgency to help women enter the workplace. The government has not done nearly enough to push firms in the right direction, especially with equal pay. There needs to be tough legislation with teeth, meaning strong penalties and high fines for non-compliance.”

Japan ranked 101 out of 135 countries for the gender gap in the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Report. That’s down three slots from the previous year. The country has relatively few women politicians and business executives.

Akiko Sumida, a receptionist in Tokyo, said, “I wish there was more awareness about women’s issues here — there’s not enough, and I don’t believe the upcoming election will change anything for women.”

Many observers say by ignoring its skilled women, Japan is squandering its resources.

“Women are too shy and quiet to speak out, so the system here in Japan won’t change,” Sumida said. “The politicians don’t care about us, either.”

However, Yukiko Kada is concerned, and has raised two children while working. She is the first female governor of Shiga prefecture and only the fifth female governor in Japanese history. Many women see her as a role model for Japanese women who want to excel in their careers, and work towards breaking down the barriers for future generations of Japanese women.

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