Government Releases First Female Empowerment Guidelines

By Mizuho Aoki
Japan Times, Tokyo.

Japan’s first guidelines on female empowerment were released Friday in an effort to get women to play a more active role in a society that customarily treats them less than equal and offers them fewer chances to advance in the workplace.

Acting on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent push for a society where “all women can shine,” the guidelines state that the use of “female power” is essential to sustain growth at a time when the population is shrinking and rapidly graying, and call for a legal revision to force companies to prevent the maltreatment of pregnant women or mothers with young children.

They also call for bolstering efforts to increase the number of women in science and engineering, and for rewarding companies that promote a healthy work-life balance with preferential treatment for public contracts.

Ministries are expected to draft budget requests for fiscal 2016 reflecting the policy. The government will renew the guidelines every year before ministries begin drafting their budgets, a Cabinet Office official said.

As for so-called maternity harassment, the managerial victimization of women who become pregnant, the government plans to revise the equal employment opportunity law to guard against such discrimination. One idea being considered by the government is creating a consultation system for women who feel they have been treated unfairly, the official said.

The current law bans maternity harassment but fails to stipulate preventive measures, the official said.

The guidelines call for men to be more active in child-rearing and homemaking, roles that have been relegated to women for centuries. They also urge companies to promote work-life balance and offers to give those that do preferential treatment when bidding for public contracts.

Also included in the guidelines is a reinterpretation of the equal employment opportunity law, which bans companies from specifying gender when advertising jobs. The reinterpretation would let companies, for example, recruit female mid-career managers.

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