Japan hosts women-focused conference

  • 29/08/2015
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Reuters)
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Reuters)

Japan has started the "World Assembly for Women" conference, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledging to shake up a corporate culture that discriminates against female workers.

Tokyo plays host to the two-day international conference with Liberian President and Nobel laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Marillyn Hewson, chief executive of US defence and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, among the speakers.

Since sweeping to power in late 2012 on a ticket to kickstart Japan's flagging economy, Abe has vowed to push for women to get more senior roles in politics and business as one of the pillars of his Abenomics growth blitz.

"Abenomics is 'Womenomics'," Abe told the forum.

"True reform will not come about unless we have more women becoming leaders in their organisations, in addition to changes in men's consciousness."

During his speech, Abe also lambasted the country's corporate culture that endorsed "male-centred long working hours".

He added that Japan needed to overhaul its work culture so that couples will be able to "share responsibility for household chores and child rearing".

"We will make this the ordinary practice in Japan," said the prime minister, without specifying how he planned to make such changes a reality.

The conference began just hours after a series of weak inflation and household spending figures underscored Japan's wobbly economic recovery and the challenges to Abe's efforts to conquer years of deflation and laggard growth.

Japan has one of the lowest rates of female workforce participation in the developed world and most economists agree it badly needs to increase the number of working women to grow its economy as the population rapidly ages.

But a lack of childcare facilities, poor career support and deeply entrenched sexism are blamed for keeping women at home.

On Friday (local time), however, Japan's parliament enacted a law that requires larger companies to disclose figures on their targets for hiring female employees and promoting them to senior positions.