In 2003, Japanese then-prime minister Junichiro Koizumi set a goal of having 30 percent women in leadership positions in both private and public sectors by 2020. Because of its aging and declining population, the country is in dire need of more people in the workforce, and current prime minister Shinzo Abe also made this target central to his plan on boosting the economy. The government’s gender equality bureau last week announced it would re-adjust the target to seven percent by 2021. The original goal had been deemed too ambitious, as this summer only three percent of board seats in Japan’s 30 biggest companies were held by women, and many executives publicly doubted the target was reachable. In 2014, Japan’s labor ministry unveiled a plan to pay firms for promoting women to senior jobs, but by September of this year not a single company had signed up for it. Much of this could be blamed on the country’s deeply ingrained sexist work culture, where working women who become pregnant are often seen as “causing trouble” and women are often expected to give up their careers to care for aging relatives.
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