Promoting equality in Japan

The World Bank Group recently released their report Women, Business and the Law 2019, where laws and regulations coupled to gender inequality across 187 countries over the past ten years were examined. With the understanding that women’s access to employment and entrepreneurial activity is related to many factors, the study focused on how women must navigate laws and regulations at different point in their careers, limiting their equality of opportunity.

Sweden scored 100 out of 100 in the Women, Business and the Law index, meaning it gives women and men equal rights in the measured areas. Sweden’s top score in this report, however, does not mean that Sweden steps down its ambition in creating gender equality throughout society. Japan scored 79.4 in the index, which is above the global average of 74.7. Japan is in the process of stepping up work on decreasing the gender gap, and improvements have been seen over the past years. In 2018, the female labor force participation rate reach almost 70 percent, an increase from 64 percent in 2012. Ambitions on raising the number of female researchers are continuing, in order to leverage from the current 15 percent.

As part of Prime Minister Abe’s “womenomics”, goals have been outlined to promote more women in the workforce. The womenomics was a significant topic when Abe came to power six years ago, and was considered an important part of the Government’s growth strategy to boost the economy. The aim of the womenomics is to push policies to encourage and enable women to work and have family at the same time. In addition to getting more women in the work force, it also aims at filling 30 percent of leadership positions with women by 2020. To reach the goals, actions are needed towards daycare shortage, and for stimulation of workplaces to actively promote mothers returning after maternity leave. Measures like these are important not only for increasing gender equality, but also for handling the societal challenge with ageing population and shrinking workforce in Japan.

In Sweden, gender equality is considered a cornerstone in society, and Sweden has for a long time also promoted diversity also in other aspects. It is not only from the equality perspective Sweden has set high priority for this, but it is also seen as fundamental for promoting innovation capacity, where Sweden today ranks as one of the global top performers. Studies in Japan have also showed positive effects on innovation in diverse teams, i.e. where the number of patents increased by 20 percent in teams with mixed gender.

Sweden and Japan have long-standing and well-functioning collaborations in a wide range of areas, and there are many opportunities to learn from each other for further progress. The Embassy of Sweden in Tokyo is actively working on promoting gender equality, for instance, by arranging events and seminars on gender equality, and showcasing successes.

The Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Japan also promotes gender equality, and initiated a Japanese and Swedish female network focusing on empowerment in 2018 – the Women’s Impact Network – today consisting of around 160 members, arranging regular seminars and meet-ups. The network includes mentorship program, where almost 90 percent of the mentees today are Japanese women, aspiring future top positions in industry.

On this year’s International Women’s Day, the one year anniversary of Women’s Impact Network is held with a high level panel discussion on “Build better business through diversity”, to further promote the positive effects of gender equality (read more about it here).

Happy International Women’s Day!