“ABENOMICS is womenomics,” Japan’s prime minister declared, marrying two atrocious words in a single phrase, at a glamorous shindig called WAW!, or the “World Assembly for Women in Tokyo”, on August 28th-29th. Before an international audience of high-powered female leaders and businesswomen, Shinzo Abe promised to help women “shine” at work as a way to boost Japan’s talent pool and economy. As the conference opened, the Diet (parliament) passed a long-awaited law calling on companies to find ways to promote more women.
Yet such grand visions are beside the point for most working women. Sayaka Osakabe, founder of a new non-profit outfit called Matahara Net, which campaigns for the rights of pregnant women at work, says that before “shining” women just need to be allowed to work without being harassed. Matahara, (a contraction of “maternity” and “harassment”), is illegal but rife.The problem is that there is a lot of opposition within society to these reforms. They won't come easily. In the meantime, Japan's birth rate remains very low and this lack of gender equality in the workplace (and at home) is almost certainly the primary reason, as it is in Taiwan.