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Does Japan Need Some Binders Full Of Women?

A woman stands outside a securities firm in Tokyo last week. The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says employing more women will jumpstart the economy.
A woman stands outside a securities firm in Tokyo last week. The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says employing more women will jumpstart the economy.

A campaign by Japan's government to encourage the hiring of women for senior government and business positions as a way of stimulating the economy has fallen short of its goals.

The government's Gender Equity Bureau has lowered its target for women executives in government to 7 percent from 30 percent and in the private sector to 15 percent from 30 percent.

"It doesn't mean that we gave up the goal of 30 percent ... but the new target reflects the most ambitious figure at this point," Cabinet Office official Yosuke Konno told AFP.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has frequently argued that more women should enter the workforce as part of "Abenomics," his multipronged effort to stimulate Japan's economy, which is plagued by deflation, an aging population and slow growth.

Fewer women work outside the home in Japan than in just about any other developed country, and the Gender Equity Bureau says changing that would benefit the economy:

"The realization of a truly affluent society is dependent on the establishment of a social framework that allows individuals to choose various lifestyles regardless of their gender, and without being bound by such rigid, stereotyped gender roles that assume that child rearing and nursing are exclusively women's duties, while men are the workers, tax-payers and pension renderers who support the nation."

However, powerful cultural and economic forces have made Abe's goals difficult to realize, according to The Japan Times.

"Most economists agree that the country badly needs to increase the role of women in government and the private sector to foster economic growth as the population rapidly ages.

"However, a lack of childcare facilities, poor career support and deeply entrenched sexism are blamed for keeping women at home."

In September, the government was forced to cancel a program offering subsidies to companies that promote women, after not a single company chose to participate.

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