The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan is calling on the government to increase the number of foreign domestic workers and expand after-school support for children to help bring more women into the workforce.
The business organization said such measures are necessary for the Abe administration to fulfill its goal of raising the proportion of women in leadership positions to 30 percent by 2020 as part of the economic growth strategy.
ACCJ members also said Tuesday that boosting support for household work would attract more foreign workers to Japan, noting the lack of assistance in this area also makes Tokyo less attractive as a place to live than cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore.
The organization pointed out that current immigration laws allow only expatriates on diplomatic, investor or business manager visas to sponsor foreign domestic workers, preventing Japanese from hiring non-Japanese housekeepers.
Kumi Sato, vice chairwoman of the ACCJ’s labor force diversification task force, urged the government to allow Japanese citizens to sponsor foreign domestic help on condition that the household has a combined income of more than ¥7 million.
Sato also called for foreign domestic workers to be allowed to work for multiple families. Currently, non-Japanese housekeepers are not authorized to work part time for other families when their services are not required by their primary employer, she said.
“The Justice Ministry says hiring Japanese domestic workers should take precedence. But I guess it is hard for housemaids in their 60s and 70s to take care of young children,” she said, referring to the aging trend of the Japanese workforce.
The ACCJ said local nannies or baby sitters are not frequently utilized in Japan due to their expensive rates. The daytime average rate for a Japanese baby sitter is about ¥1,500 per hour and the rate increases in the evening, according to the All Japan Childcare Services Association.
The U.S. business lobby also urged the government to take additional steps to expand coverage of public and private after-school care for elementary school students, saying many working mothers are compelled to turn down management positions due to the lack of child care.
“Many women who are well qualified for middle and senior management positions are also likely to have elementary school age children and if they cannot find suitable after-school care . . . they are less likely to be positioned to be selected for and willing to accept the senior management positions,” the organization said.
Makiko Fukui, vice chairwoman of the ACCJ’s women in business committee, said an estimated 500,000 children in Japan are currently on the waiting list for after-school care, with 50 percent of facilities not accepting students in the fourth grade and older.
Fukui said the current government policy of boosting day care facilities for preschool kids isn’t enough to increase the proportion of women in managerial positions.