Japan wants to keep women in the workforce

As the nation's population shrinks, new measures are being designed to keep women working.

Published November 21, 2005 4:01PM (EST)

According to a Friday report, the Japanese government wants to put new measures in place to ensure that women continue to work as the country's population shrinks.

According to Reuters, Japan's Health and Welfare Ministry "will propose an amendment to the 1986 law that would ban employers from treating women unfavorably because they are pregnant or have young children ... Employers would also be prevented from firing a woman who was pregnant, or who had a child under a year old, unless they could prove that the employee's family situation was not the reason."

Japanese women tend to quit their jobs once they begin having children, but with a labor crisis looming, the government wants to do everything possible to keep women going to work. Kathy Matsui of investment bank Goldman Sachs told ABC News that current forecasts show Japan will have only two workers for each pensioner within the next 30 years -- and that's not nearly enough.

Yet, Japanese women might not be so delighted to hear the news. Japan's equal employment opportunity law has not been of much help to the country's working women in the two decades that it has been in place. Japanese women are paid an average of two-thirds of what their male counterparts are, and very few are ever promoted to management.

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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