One in four Japanese companies want their female employees to quit after giving birth, rather than taking child care leave, according to a new survey by Aidem Inc., a publisher of a magazine on job information. The results are yet more evidence that many Japanese companies do not consider the contributions by female employees to be of much value. The disappointing conclusion is that many Japanese firms are locked into out-of-date attitudes that do little to help find ways out of the current economic malaise.

The poll of 1,439 firms found that 25.3% want women to quit after giving birth. Only 30.4% of firms want female workers to take leave and return, while 44.3% said they “somewhat want” them to. Those figures offer evidence that the forward-looking attitude needed for Japan to reinvigorate its economy by better using the huge pool of talent from women has yet to take hold.

The results of the poll were very different between firms with female managers and those without. Among firms with women in management, 37.6% said they want workers to take child care leave and return to work; but among firms without any female managers, that figure dropped to just 21.6%. Unfortunately, another recent survey by consultancy McKinsey and Co. found that the number of female managers in Japan was almost the lowest in Asia, coming in ahead of only South Korea.

Not wanting female workers to return sends the message that contributions from female workers have less value than those from their male counterparts, and are not needed at all after a certain point in life. Throwing away female workers’ ideas, experience and input, or not even letting them acquire it in the first place, is a poor business strategy. Workers accumulate experience in the workplace. That experience increases the value of the company’s decision-making.

Excluding half the potential workforce, one that is equally educated and with equal potential, represents a narrow and shortsighted vision. Planning on women not returning after giving birth means that women will never be given the kind of tasks and responsibilities on which to build a career. Building a workplace that is not tilted towards one gender or the other better fits the realities of the modern world, where, coincidentally, men and women exist in roughly equal numbers.

The attitude of some Japanese employers still lags years, even decades behind the realities of the current age. Breaking the cycle of excluding women from participating in long-term, serious work is an essential task Japan has to tackle if it is to move forward.

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