Japan Inc's Endangered Species: Women
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Rima Tanaka is a manager at a medical firm. She's worked hard for years to reach this stage in her career. But now she has a new dream - becoming a mother. That's why she's attending this pre-pregnancy class at a maternity clinic in Tokyo. If she's like other Japanese women, she may not be working for long. Around 70 percent leave their jobs after having their first child.

Transcript


Rima Tanaka is a manager at a medical firm. She's worked hard for years to reach this stage in her career. But now she has a new dream - becoming a mother. That's why she's attending this pre-pregnancy class at a maternity clinic in Tokyo. If she's like other Japanese women, she may not be working for long. Around 70 percent leave their jobs after having their first child. (SOUNDBITE) (English) WHITE COLLAR WORKER, RIMA TANAKA, SAYING: "I've prioritized my work up until now. And it's always felt like if you try and push your career forward, then you can't have children. That's been the atmosphere at work." There's a massive shortage of women in the Japanese workplace, especially in senior positions. Female board members account for only about 1 percent of the total. Getting more women to work would be a huge boost to an economy that the government is struggling to bring back to life. Goldman Sachs estimates that raising the female labor participation rate to the same level as males could lift Japan's GDP by as much as 14 percent. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promised to mobilize women as part of his growth policies. He wants them to occupy 30 percent of leadership positions in all sectors of society by 2020. But lawmakers like Yuriko Koike - herself a former defense minister - say Japan's conservative political climate will make that difficult. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY LAWMAKER, YURIKO KOIKE, SAYING: "It's not that easy to win support. The minute you talk about women's policies, many Japanese men just look completely baffled and say 'Why is that important?' Bring up the issue of raising the number of female CEOs, and you have a lot of puzzled faces in the room." Japanese companies are also reluctant to change. Keidanren - the country's main business lobby - is attempting to block a government proposal to require listed firms to disclose the gender breakdown of their staff. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS REPORTER, YONGGI KANG, SAYING: "And then, there's the cultural barrier. While many women leave their jobs to raise children or care of elderly parents, very few men take paternity leave. And unless those attitudes change, Japan's recovery will be running at half-speed." ENDS