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Obuchi ready to fight demographic woes

by Minoru Matsutani

Yuko Obuchi, state minister for population and gender equality, pledged Monday to make her Cabinet colleagues aware of the seriousness of Japan’s aging society and to ask them for cooperation at every opportunity.

“I’m willing to accept difficulty and criticism. I will directly face the problem (of the decline in the number of children) Japan has and give instructions to ministries and agencies to solve it,” Obuchi, a 34-year-old mother who is the youngest Cabinet minister in the postwar period, said in an interview at her office. “And I will make these transactions transparent.”

Obuchi, who gave birth to her son last September, also wants to ask women not to give up on having children while pursuing a career.

“Nowadays, women can do a lot of things as many more chances are given to us than before,” said the daughter of the late former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.

A problem she sees in Japan is that the work environment for women has not kept pace with the country’s overall economic and social development.

However, she said women should not give up their opportunities as “I feel the women of my generation have a social duty to pave the way for women to enjoy child-rearing and work simultaneously.”

Meanwhile, she will try to change men’s mentality and attitudes toward work, which she said are lagging behind women’s.

She said she will do everything she can to see that all children waiting to be accepted into nursery schools, currently around 20,000, can find a place.

Obuchi also said she will try to help those who want to have babies but need financial and other sorts of support.

To be sure, Obuchi, a Lower House member, is unlikely to keep her position for long as Prime Minister Taro Aso is expected to dissolve the House of Representatives soon.

Then she will be preoccupied with the campaign in her Gunma Prefecture No. 5 district. If the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition loses the election, she is certain to be replaced.

After graduating from Seijo University in Tokyo, she worked at major broadcaster TBS for three years starting in 1996 before going to London to study English for a year. She was first elected to the Lower House in 2000.