Japan firms fall woefully short of meeting government goals on women in management: poll

[TOKYO] About one-fifth of Japanese companies have no female managers and most say women account for less than 10 per cent of management, a Reuters monthly poll found, highlighting the struggle for the government's "womenomics" drive to make headway.

The survey results come as Japan is seen to delay its target this year to raise the share of women in leadership posts to 30 per cent as part of the government's campaign to empower women, dubbed "womenomics", and cope with Japan's ageing population.

The Reuters Corporate Survey, conducted from Sept 29 to Oct 8, found 71 per cent of Japanese firms said women accounted for less than 10 per cent of management, while 17 per cent had no female managers at all.

Asked how much scope there was to increase female managers, 55 per cent said by around 10 per cent, a quarter said by about 20 per cent, one in 10 firms said by around 30 per cent, while 5 per cent saw no room for that.

"Regardless of sex, we should hire talented people and promote them on their merits, rather than putting priority on the proportion," a chemicals maker manager wrote in the survey.

A paper and pulp maker manager wrote: "We hire more female new graduates than male, but many female hires tend to leave the company after a while, making it hard to raise female managers."

The survey, conducted for Reuters by Nikkei Research, canvassed 485 large and midsize non-financial firms. About 240 firms answered the questions on condition of anonymity.

The results were similar to the previous poll taken in 2018.

Japan's global ranking on gender parity fell to 121st out of 153 countries in a World Economic Forum report for 2020.

New premier Yoshihide Suga's 21-member cabinet has just two female ministers, and women account for just short of 10 per cent of all lawmakers in parliament's powerful lower house.

While aiming to follow his predecessor Shinzo Abe's policies including the coronavirus pandemic response, Mr Suga has pledged to allow insurance coverage for expensive fertility treatments.

On the pandemic impact on employment and wages, 47 per cent of Japan firms suffered it, causing many to curb new hiring, slash wages and reduce staff, the survey showed.

One third of firms expect employment to remain short of pre-pandemic levels at the year end, while a slim majority, 52 per cent of firms, saw capital expenditure would undershoot their initial plans, dampening prospects for sustained economic recovery.



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