• Kyodo

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The number of working women in Japan topped 30 million in June for the first time since comparable data became available in 1953, with more women working full time amid the chronic labor shortage, government data showed Tuesday.

The number of women holding a job rose 530,000 from a year before to reach 30.03 million, contributing to the total number of employees hitting a record 67.47 million.

The unemployment rate improved to 2.3 percent in June from 2.4 percent the previous month, helped by women’s aggressive job market participation, according to the government data.

The male jobless rate increased 0.1 point from May to 2.6 percent, while that for women declined 0.2 point to 2.0 percent, the lowest level since February 1991, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said.

“The jobless rate has been firm and moving narrowly,” a ministry official said, adding that the employment situation has been steadily improving.

Breaking down the data for employees excluding executives, 76.9 percent of men held full-time positions, but only 45 percent of women worked full time. The remaining 55 percent were working as part-timers or contractors with less stable and generally lower paying jobs.

The total number of regular workers increased by 280,000 in June from the same month last year, compared with a 190,000 increase for part-time workers, indicating that more women are working full time.

The labor shortage caused by the aging of the population has increased the number of open positions. This has given Japanese women, who have long had fewer opportunities to pursue careers than men because of cultural reasons, much wider opportunities in the job market.

The government has been seeking to increase women’s participation in the labor market, encouraging elderly people to remain in the workforce and accepting more foreign laborers.

Major companies are also keen to increase the number of female employees, with 57 percent of 112 companies surveyed by Kyodo News in March and April saying they are trying to create a working environment more favorable to women.

The Diet passed a set of laws in May to bolster measures against workplace harassment, including prohibiting discrimination against workers who allege they have been victims of sexual harassment and protecting pregnant women or women who have returned to work after being on maternity leave.

The job availability ratio stood at 1.61, down from 1.62 in May, according to separate data released by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. The ratio means there were 161 openings for every 100 job seekers.

The percentage of the working age population between 15 and 64 years old with jobs rose 1.0 point from a year earlier to 77.9 percent, the highest level since comparable data became available in 1968. The ratio for men in that age bracket was 84.4 percent, and for women 71.3 percent, also the highest since 1968.

The seasonally adjusted number of unemployed people was 1.61 million in June, down 10,000 from a month earlier.

Among them, 670,000 people voluntarily left their jobs in June, down 10,000 from the previous month. The number of new job seekers grew 20,000 to 410,000, while 370,000 people were laid off, unchanged from a month earlier.

“This month’s report is well-balanced as the number of people in work increased … the numbers of those who voluntarily left their jobs as well as new job seekers were up,” said Koichi Fujishiro, senior economist at the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

He also said the positive results helped ease concerns that the slowdown in the global economy could affect the employment situation.

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