• Kyodo, Staff Report


More married women are entering the workforce — even those whose husbands are high earners — apparently because they want to, the labor ministry said Friday.

In the past, the employment rate among married women tended to decline the higher their husbands’ incomes were, but in recent years, the rate for households of all income levels has been rising, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s White Paper on the Labor Economy.

“More women are eager to work not just to financially help their families but on their own will. It will be far more important to balance work, child-rearing and caregiving,” a ministry official said.

The employment rate for wives in households with an annual income of at least ¥10 million ($88,800) rose to 56.1 percent in 2016 from 46.8 percent in 2002, while the rate for wives in households making more than ¥5 million but less than ¥10 million per year climbed to 64.7 percent from 55.0 percent.

In a 2016 survey, 54.4 percent of women polled said they wanted to continue working even after giving birth, up from 33.1 percent in 2000.

Similarly, 26.2 percent said in 2016 they want to quit working once they give birth and work again after the child gets older, down from 37.6 percent in 2000.

The female labor force in 2016 grew by 400,000 from the previous year, which dwarfed the 90,000 men added to the male labor force, the paper said.

That’s welcome news for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose labor reforms are aimed at addressing Japan’s labor shortage by encouraging more seniors and women to join the workforce.

The paper said Japanese companies faced the most severe labor shortage in the first quarter of 2017 since the same quarter in 1992, citing data from the Bank of Japan.

The paper also touched on the impact of artificial intelligence on employment and the degree to which telecommuting and similar working styles have taken root in Japan.

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