Tomodachi Autumn 2014

Speeches of the Prime Minister

The Open Forum, World Assembly for Women
in Tokyo (WAW! Tokyo 2014)

Excerpts from the Opening Speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Delivered in Tokyo, September 12, 2014

 “Creating a society in which women shine” has consistently been one of my highest-priority issues since the launch of my administration in December 2012. I reshuffled my Cabinet on September 3. In particular, my appointment of women as Cabinet ministers received a great deal of attention. I also appointed a woman to the important post of Chair of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council.
 Through the reshuffle, the number of female Cabinet members in Japan increased remarkably. Of course, there are still other countries that outshine us. Although Japan has not yet reached the very highest tier, the landscape of politics in Japan will also change. These female members are people of excellence, brimming with ability and drive. I am firmly convinced that they will be dynamically engaged in their duties to the fullest.
 We cannot say that today’s Japan is a “straight-A” model student in appointing women to executive positions. The proportion of women among the members of the National Diet remains low, at 11 percent. That is why we must act now. Japan has set a target of having women occupy 30 percent of leadership positions by 2020. A survey conducted among the top 500 corporations chosen by Fortune magazine concluded that companies having three or more female board directors boast profitability that is more than 80 percent higher than companies with no women on the board, while also attracting stock investments. Women’s ideas are beginning to be utilized in product development at Japanese companies as well. Women bring to corporate management certain perspectives that only women can provide. Diversified organizations are able to provide society with new types of added value.
 Saying I would like all listed companies to appoint at least one woman to their boards, I have been urging the Japanese business community to take concrete actions towards appointing women to executive positions. Female directors have emerged one after another at financial institutions, trading companies, and other business categories that in Japan have heretofore been considered male work places. I intend to accelerate this still further. This autumn Japan will revise the system governing securities reports to require companies to include information on the number of female board members. For companies working on promoting women, we will expand the opportunities for them to receive government procurement orders. We will also provide subsidies to those companies that newly pursue the appointment of women to executive ranks. Furthermore, by promoting the spread of “telework” utilizing information technology, we will pursue the realization of a flexible working style.
 We have been making various efforts to support the dynamic engagement of women. As a result, the number of working women in Japan has increased by some 530,000 over this past year. Many women wish to continue to engage in satisfying work as long as possible. A large number of women are also working hard to be active within their companies in pursuit of promotion. At the same time, the reality in Japan is that 60 percent of women quit their jobs after the birth of their first child. There are also those who quit their jobs for the time being in order to raise their children but wish to work again. Still others want to focus on family matters until they finish their child-rearing or nursing-care responsibilities. Some others wish to become permanent employees. I believe that each of these choices is valuable. I wish to support women who are following with confidence the path they chose. I will work to take on all issues that hinder women’s active engagement. And yet, a large number of women worry about balancing child-rearing and work. We must eliminate the phrase “child-care waiting lists” from the Japanese lexicon. There are many women who have dreams of starting a business or being of service to society at large. In order to enable those people to be as dynamically engaged as they wish, we will provide tailormade support from the time of start-up until the business is running smoothly. Beginning in fiscal 2015, as a part of strengthening our support for child-care and child-rearing, we will introduce a new professional qualification of “child-care supporter” so that at child-care facilities these people are able to make use of their child-rearing experiences. I am hoping to see many women take up the challenge of undertaking such businesses as child-care or child-rearing support based on their experience. We will work to bring about by 2020 a society in which all women can try to achieve their dreams at any life stage. This October, we will compile a “Package to Support All Women Who Shine.”
 The other day I met with women working in the construction and transportation industries. They said, “It is rewarding to take on substantial work assignments at the scale of developing entire communities,” and “The smiles on the faces of my customers when I deliver packages to them are the most important thing of all.” And yet, these have been male-dominated workplaces until now. It is my understanding that as women themselves roll up their sleeves, there is an expanding movement to improve the work environment and revise working hours in order to make it easier for women to work there. I believe that there remain a large number of men who take pride in how little they sleep and have misconstrued being “exceedingly busy” as “extremely productive.” As the number of women in the workplace increases and they come to have responsibility for important decisions, the rules for working will change and productivity will increase. Japan’s efforts to create a society in which women shine have only just begun. The most difficult part may be transforming the division of roles based on gender, something that is, unwittingly, firmly ingrained within us. It is deeply regrettable that we still encounter remarks that should be called sexual harassment. Creating a society in which women shine does not mean hanging up a signboard saying “Women Actively Promoted Here.” It means changing the rules of the game that penetrate society.
 I want to spread this transformation to the entire world. We must bring about a world in which all people, both women and men, shine. At the UN General Assembly last year, I spoke of my determination towards supporting women. We have been moving forward steadily in implementing the ODA I pledged.
Changes are now under way. And we have just now come to stand at the starting line. I am pleased to tell you that more than 100 events related to this symposium have been and will be held throughout Japan, as well as in over 20 countries. I will stand at the forefront as we work to build a society in which all people—both men and women—shine. I hope you join me in taking action now.