• Kyodo

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The head of the International Monetary Fund said Wednesday that Japan’s efforts to promote labor reform and improve child care can together be a “game changer” for the economy and lift growth.

Speaking at a seminar in Tokyo, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said demographics and productivity pose major challenges for Asia, and that Japan’s efforts to boost female labor participation are a good example of how they can be addressed.

“Japan has some of the world’s richest policy experiences, from being Asia’s original emerging market to being at the forefront of policy innovations to managing demographics and improving productivity trends,” Lagarde said.

There is still “room” for expanding access to child care services, reducing long working hours and ensuring equal pay for equal work, Lagarde said, adding that such efforts can be “a game changer for the Japanese economy.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sought approval from voters for his plan to increase spending on child care and education in the Lower House election last month.

Since taking office in 2012, Abe has been encouraging more participation by women in the workforce as the nation’s rapidly aging population is expected to pose challenges to the economy.

In October, the IMF raised its global economic outlook for 2017 and 2018. It projects 3.6 percent growth this year and 3.7 percent next year.

“The situation is a lot better,” Lagarde said of the state of the world economy.

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