Photo: Goldman Sachs
Olympus, one of Japan’s oldest companies, may collapse after admitting that it hid over $1 billion in losses over 20 years.It’s proof that there are some serious problems in corporate Japan, which is known for its group-think, consensus culture.
So it’ll take a while to fix one of the country’s biggest problems: employing educated women in the workforce.
According to the latest edition of The Economist:
Nearly half of Japanese university graduates are female but only 67% of these women have jobs, many of which are part-time or involve serving tea. Japanese women with degrees are much more likely than Americans (74% to 31%) to quit their jobs voluntarily. Whereas most Western women who take time off do so to look after children, Japanese women are more likely to say that the strongest push came from employers who do not value them. A startling 49% of highly educated Japanese women who quit do so because they feel their careers have stalled.
The Japanese workplace is not quite as sexist as it used to be. Pictures of naked women, ubiquitous on salarymen’s desks in the 1990s, have been removed. Most companies have rules against sexual discrimination. But educated women are often shunted into dead-end jobs. Old-fashioned bosses see their role as prettifying the office and forming a pool of potential marriage partners for male employees.
Also, “the vast majority (77%) of women who take time off work want to return. But only 43% find a job, compared with 73% in America,” according to the magazine, which also looks at what’s holding women back in Japan:
- Workers are expected to work extremely long hours. Base pay is low, and employees earn a significant part of their incomes by working overtime. “Nearly 80% of Japanese men get home after 7pm, and many attend semi-compulsory drinking binges in hostess bars until the small hours.” For women with families, this makes it extremely difficult to work.
- Employees are valued for the facetime they put in. “Even if the company rule book says that flexitime is allowed, those who work from home are seen as uncommitted to the team. Employees are expected to show their faces before 9am,” according to the Economist.
- Men hold most of the managerial positions in Japanese corporations. 10% of Japanese managers are female vs. 46% in America. This makes it harder to advance.
Goldman Sachs released a report in 2010, “Womeneconomics 3.0: The Time Is Now,” that estimates Japan’s GDP could increase by 15% by employing more women:
If Japan’s female employment rate matched that of males (Japanese male employment being one of the highest in the world at around 80%), this would add 8.2 mn employees to the workforce … Compared to quantitative easing and other macro policies, we believe gender equality is possibly the most powerful action the government can take to promote long-term, sustainable growth.
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