Japan firms fall woefully short of meeting government goals on women in management – Reuters poll

TOKYO (Reuters) – About one-fifth of Japanese companies have no female managers and most say women account for less than 10% of management, a Reuters monthly poll found, highlighting the struggle for the government’s “womenomics” drive to make headway.

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective face mask uses an escalator in a quiet business district on the first working day after the Golden Week holiday, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tokyo, Japan, May 7,2020.REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The survey results come as Japan is seen to delay its target this year to raise the share of women in leadership posts to 30% as part of the government’s campaign to empower women, dubbed “womenomics”, and cope with Japan’s ageing population.

The Reuters Corporate Survey, conducted Sept. 29-Oct. 8, found 71% of Japanese firms said women accounted for less than 10% of management, while 17% had no female managers at all.

Asked how much scope there was to increase female managers, 55% said by around 10%, a quarter said by about 20%, one in 10 firms said by around 30%, while 5% saw no room for that.

“Regardless of sex, we should hire talented people and promote them on their merits, rather than putting priority on the proportion,” a chemicals maker manager wrote in the survey.

A paper and pulp maker manager wrote: “We hire more female new graduates than male, but many female hires tend to leave the company after a while, making it hard to raise female managers.”

The survey, conducted for Reuters by Nikkei Research, canvassed 485 large and midsize non-financial firms. About 240 firms answered the questions on condition of anonymity.

The results were similar to the previous poll taken in 2018.

Japan’s global ranking on gender parity fell to 121st out of 153 countries in a World Economic Forum report for 2020.

New premier Yoshihide Suga’s 21-member cabinet has just two female ministers, and women account for just short of 10% of all lawmakers in parliament’s powerful lower house.

While aiming to follow his predecessor Shinzo Abe’s policies including the coronavirus pandemic response, Suga has pledged to allow insurance coverage for expensive fertility treatments.

On the pandemic impact on employment and wages, 47% of Japan firms suffered it, causing many to curb new hiring, slash wages and reduce staff, the survey showed.

One third of firms expect employment to remain short of pre-pandemic levels at the year end, while a slim majority, 52% of firms, saw capital expenditure would undershoot their initial plans, dampening prospects for sustained economic recovery.

Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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