Japan plans to put more women in government

The Japanese government Tuesday endorsed a set of measures that would put more women in top level government posts and provide more support for working moms. The plan, approved at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, aims to raise the percentage of women recruited to the government's top level career track to about 30 percent by fiscal 2010, from the current 21.5 percent.

It allows women working full-time in the central government to work shorter hours while raising children or caring for family members and urges male civil servants to take paternity leave, according to the plan posted on the Cabinet Office Web site. The plan is a follow-up to the government's Gender Equality Basic Plan, first introduced in 2000, and also urges companies to rehire women who left their jobs after giving birth.

The government will come up with measures to support female entrepreneurs by providing information on how to start a business and introducing mentors, according to the plan. The endorsement comes as the nation faces a declining birth rate, hitting a record low in 2004 of 1.29 children per woman. Japan also faces a serious labor shortage in the coming years as its population ages, prompting discussions of bringing more female workers and immigrants into the work place.

Gender equality is a major issue in Japan, where men hold most of senior managerial jobs in companies and women often quit work after they give birth for lack of child care centers. Japan ranks 43rd among 80 countries in the Gender Empowerment Measure index, according to the United Nations human development report 2005.

The index evaluates whether or not women are able to participate actively in economic and political activities and take part in decision-making by calculating women's share of earned income, the ratio of female professional and technical workers, the ratio of female administrators and managers, and the ratio of seats in parliament held by women, reports the AP. N.U.

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