The government has abandoned its aim of having women in 30 percent of management roles by 2020. On Friday it approved a new gender equality road map that slashes targets in some areas.
While the Cabinet Office insists the 30 percent figure remains its general aim, the drastic lowering of expectations acknowledges poor progress to date in areas such as government service.
Under the new five-year plan, endorsed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet, the government will work toward more modest goals such as 7 percent for national public servants and 15 percent for local government officials and private companies.
It is the fourth set of gender equality targets to have been adopted, each lasting for a period of five years. The Cabinet Office adopted the 30 percent target in 2003.
As of 2015, the ratio of women in managerial positions at ministries and government offices stood at a mere 3.5 percent, while the figure for the private sector was 9.2 percent.
While the Cabinet Office remains committed to the 30 percent goal in principle, it said it is more important to nurture candidates who will be eligible to lead in the future, especially in fields with poor female representation at present.
The plan includes aiming to increase the proportion of women in junior management positions to 30 percent for national and local public servants and 25 percent for private companies.
The plan also spells out the scale of the challenge ahead: To boost women’s participation in the workplace, the nation needs to reform its male-centered work culture, represented by long working hours and a seniority system that works disadvantageously for women. Not only do women in Japan bear the burden of raising children, they are often also expected to take care of aging parents.
The plan sets a target of having less than 5 percent of the workforce working more than 60 hours a week by 2020. In 2014, about 13 percent of male employees and 2.8 percent of female hires exceeded the 60 hours mark.
It also urges male employees to take child care leave and participate more in homemaking, setting goals of raising the ratio of men who take the leave to 13 percent, up from 2.3 percent in the private sector and 3.1 percent among civil servants in fiscal 2014.
The government also set a goal of increasing the ratio of working women aged between 25 and 44 to 77 percent in 2020 from 70.8 percent in 2014.
Japan has long had one of the worst levels of gender equality in the developed world, ranking 101st out of 145 countries in the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index in 2015.