Anew task force will be formed to help close the economic gender gap in Japan through cooperation among government, business and social leaders, and Japanese members of the World Economic Forum.

The annual report from the World Economic Forum, a Geneva-based nonprofit foundation, has consistently found Japan’s gender gap ranking to be one of the worst of any developed country. This year Japan’s gender equality came in at an embarrassing 101st out of 135 countries. China is in 69th place.

The goals of the task force are to improve Japan’s economic competitiveness by improving the opportunities for women to participate in the economy. The task force aims to help revitalize society as well as the economy by bringing Japan into line with other developed countries. The task force’s approach will continue to collect important data, but more importantly it will set up concrete interactions, interventions and programs.

Japan’s conditions are promising, but remain dormant. Japanese women have education levels near those of men, but because of the long reliance on a company-based system that privileges men, Japan is the only OECD country where the labor force participation rate of women with a university education is more or less the same as for women with a high school education.

Reducing the disparity between women’s educational attainments and their position in the workforce will be an important shift in Japan.

The task force will also look at ways of constructing systems and policies for ensuring that families are supported. As Japan’s economy weakened, the lack of participation of women in the economy led to even worse effects on families.

Ensuring women’s greater participation in all aspects of the economy and society won’t just mean two incomes for families; it will also allow for flexibility if one income is lost or reduced, and more equality. Contrary to traditional thinking, women’s workplace contributions are one of the best ways to support families.

Whenever a crisis comes, women are called on to help. However, Japan’s economy desperately needs women as a solution to the current economic crisis and, more importantly, as an effective way to ensure a permanent shift in how society is run.

By working with government agencies, private businesses and other groups, the new task force can find practical and reasonable ways to include women and reduce the gender gap. This inclusion may seem a practical measure, but it is also an economic, social and political right.

The new task force will help to study, publicize and create structures to rectify Japan’s gender gap. The task force deserves everyone’s support.

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