Japan’s Released Its First Government-Mandated Female Empowerment Guidelines


In late 2014, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo made a huge public statement about female empowerment in the country he leads by saying the government was committed to creating laws that promote and support women. The decision was more to do with the economy than it was pure feminism, but that in itself was feminist because he has recognized the vital need for women to be part of a growing and stable economy.

Faced with an aging population, PM Shinzo promised to reward businesses that offered employees more comprehensive family leave allowing women support when it came to balancing their families and career. The government has now released it’s first set of guidelines that will seek to engage women to play a more active role in society, reports the Japan Times.

PM Shinzo says he wants to see all women shine and less companies discriminating against pregnant employees. Ministries are expected to draft budgets every year that will reward companies committed to the PM’s focus.

The government plans to revise harassment laws in order to prevent discrimination against pregnant women in the workforce, and they are also talking about creating a consultation system for women who do feel like they have been treated unfairly.

There are already laws banning maternity harassment but no measures are put in place to prevent it from happening.

Aside from preventing women from being discriminated in the workplace, the guidelines will also encourage more men to play an active role in their families, roles that have traditionally been carved out for women in Japanese society.


The new guidelines also importantly stipulate that companies cannot be gender bias when advertising new jobs, giving the existing equal opportunity laws a much-needed update.

Global Government Forum outlines that there are very few women in the senior ranks of the Japanese civil service.

“EY’s Worldwide Women Public Sector Leaders Index 2014 – which ranks countries across the G20 by the percentage of women in senior central government public sector positions – ranked Japan second to last, only behind Saudi Arabia. In 2014, this percentage was 1.8% – down from 2.5% in 2013,” writes Chris Punch.

Basically, this means Japan has an uphill battle, but it is one worth climbing. One of the biggest ways to get around this issue going forward is for younger women to be able to see visible examples of Japanese women living the embodiment of what the guidelines are trying to implement.

One such woman is Yoko Hayashi, 59, who in February became the first Japanese to chair the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

She has been an activist since she was a young girl, always challenging and questioning the gender norms in Japanese society. Yoko has been a member of the UN since 2008 but has always been passionate about improving the lives of her fellow Japanese countrymen and women.

“Why do only female students have to take home economics?” she once asked a high school teacher.


Her background as a lawyer came in handy when, in her 20s, she learned about an organization in Japan that offers shelter for foreign women who were victims of sexual violence. She formed a volunteer team of lawyers with her colleagues and became a legal adviser to the group.

Since then her career has flourished and Yoko is both the type of successful and positive role model the Japanese government needs to promote to especially the younger generation of Japanese women.

“Japan should become a role model for foreign countries, but there are not many women in politics or management. And the change is slow,” she told Asia & Japan Watch.

She gave a talk at Waseda University in Tokyo, her alma mater, in May on gender equality in Japan and its promise to the international community.

“These 30 years, when Japan remained at a standstill in gender equality, saw a dramatic change in the world. The United Nations aims at achieving the 50-50 ratio of men to women in leadership positions by 2020,” she said.

The Japanese government’s commitment to making their economy diverse and non-discriminatory is something the US should adopt, especially in regards to the way it is supporting families and maternity leave.

Here’s to more world leaders recognizing the economic importance of female empowerment and supporting families.







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