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Japan gov't to push back 30% target for women in leadership positions by up to 10 years

Minister of State for Gender Equality Seiko Hashimoto (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- The Japanese government is set to delay its goal of increasing the proportion of women in leadership positions by up to a decade, as its original target of achieving a 30% ratio this year appears "impossible."

The government is now looking to postpone the fulfillment date of its target to "a period as early as possible by 2030."

The current ratio of female lawmakers and women in managerial positions falls largely short of 30% and a government-related source commented, "Achieving the target during 2020 is impossible, realistically speaking." Minister of State for Gender Equality Seiko Hashimoto met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his office on June 25 and notified him of the policy adjustment plan.

The goal of securing 30% of leadership positions for women is a centerpiece of the Abe administration's key policy of "women's empowerment." The target fulfillment date of 2020 was decided by the gender equality promotion headquarters in June 2003 during the then administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. National Diet members and those in managerial positions in government ministries and agencies concentrated in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district, as well as private firms, were envisioned as qualifying for those in "leadership positions."

However, the target of 30% was downgraded to a nonbinding goal to strive toward in the fourth basic policy plan for gender equality promotion issued as a Cabinet decision in 2015. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abe was persistent in pushing his prominent policy of empowering women, and his office instructed that the government should consider extending the fulfilment date while maintaining a target figure of 30%.

The new target date will be included in the fifth basic policy plan for gender equality promotion, which covers the next five years and is expected to be approved by the Cabinet this year. The government will incorporate into the basic policy plan the opinions of the Council for Gender Equality, which consists of related Cabinet ministers and experts and is headed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

There has emerged within the national government a proposal to present plans "to aim for a society where men and women alike are in leadership positions" by 2050 -- under which the generation born this year would assume core roles in society.

The goal of 30% by 2020 has been upheld in the basic policy plans reviewed every five years since the second basic policy plan for gender equality promotion which was issued as a Cabinet decision in 2005. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party had specified in its manifesto during the 2012 House of Representatives election that it would "certainly achieve" the goal of securing 30% of leadership positions for women by 2020. Abe has also pledged his commitment to achieving the goal in international settings, including in a speech at the annual World Economic Forum meeting held in January 2014 where he said, "By 2020, we will make 30% of leading positions to be occupied by women."

However, in the fourth basic policy plan approved in the following year of 2015, the government established a separate set of realistic figures as separate goals, while declaring that Japan would continue to strive further toward the original target "as a matter of course."

The new figures included raising the ratio of women among national public servants in positions equivalent to section chiefs in central government ministries to 7%, lifting the proportion of those in section chief positions at private firms to 15%, while boosting the percentage of women with department manager-level titles to around 10%. Nonetheless, Japan still falls short of the downgraded targets, with the ratio of female workers in ministry section chief-level positions standing at 5.3% as of July 2019, and those in equivalent positions at private firms with 30 employees or more remaining at 8.4% as of October 2018.

The ratios of female candidates in national elections also remain low, with a level of just 17.7% for the 2017 lower house election and 28.1% for the 2019 House of Councillors election. The Global Gender Gap Index that measures gender disparity in countries and regions around the world was announced in December 2019, and Japan ranked 121st among 153 countries.

(Japanese original by Kazuhiko Hori, Political News Department)

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