Business

Amid labor shortage, record 70% of Japanese women held jobs in August

Kyodo

The percentage of working-age women with jobs in Japan reached a record high of 70 percent in August, government data showed Friday, underscoring an increase in female workers amid changing attitudes and a deepening labor shortage.

The figure for women in work between ages 15 and 64 is at the highest level since comparable data became available in 1968 and compares with 83.9 percent for working-age men, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

The country’s unemployment rate stood at 2.4 percent in the reporting month, falling from 2.5 percent in July — the first improvement in three months — to remain near the lowest level in more than a quarter of a century.

In Japan, women have long had fewer opportunities to pursue careers than men because of expectations they will become homemakers or focus on raising children.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said his government is seeking to change this through policies including increasing the number of day care facilities and making it easier for men to also take child care leave.

The recent labor shortage, caused by the aging of the population as postwar baby boomers reach retirement age, means there are ample open positions, though more than half of employed women, excluding executives, are part-timers or contractors with less stable and generally lower-wage jobs than regular employees.

Job availability remained at the highest level since January 1974, with the ratio of open positions to job seekers unchanged from the previous month at 1.63, the labor ministry said.

“In the long-term, the ratio is likely to continue rising and the labor crunch likely to continue worsening,” said Koya Miyamae, an economist at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc.

“Japan’s economy is growing, which means companies will look to hire, while demographic changes continue to limit the number of those looking for work,” he said.

The seasonally adjusted number of unemployed in the country fell 50,000 from July to 1.67 million, with a decrease in people leaving jobs presumably to find better positions.

A government official told a press briefing that the labor situation is improving across a wide range of industries, with particular strength in the medical and service sectors.

The number of workers in the country, also adjusted for seasonality, increased by 260,000 to 66.62 million. Of the total, men comprised 37.13 million, while women accounted for 29.49 million.