Tokyo 30: Behind the push to revamp work culture in Japan

May 12, 2017

This week, leaders from business, government, academia and the press gathered in Tokyo as part of our global newsmaker series for a discussion on the changing foundation and dynamics of working life in Japan.

2017 marks 45 years following Japan’s passing of the Working Women’s Welfare Law and over 30 years since the enactment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act . The Japanese government has accelerated its plans to bring about full-scale work-style reform, unveiling an action plan to address the issue earlier this year.

From left to right, Mamoru Mohri, Executive Director, National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, Tokyo overnor Yuriko Koike, Kunihiro Ishibashi, Japan Head, Bloomberg

At an event held at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan), Tokyo Governor and keynote speaker Yuriko Koike and a panel of women leaders representing prominent media in Japan discussed how to foster a society that allows everyone to achieve a fulfilling and balanced working life.

In her keynote address, Governor Koike noted that while innovation in science and technology is undoubtedly important to the future of Tokyo, an analogous progress in the mindsets of its citizens to embrace a diverse and open culture is imperative. Ms. Koike shared her own multifaceted career journey which saw her graduating from Cairo University and working as an interpreter and a television news anchor before entering the world of politics. She believed her unusual path of diverse experiences allowed her to break through tradition and achieve her ambition to shape policy matters, hence allowing her to realize a fulfilling working life.

In the panel discussion, three prominent editors discussed the prospect of realizing a purposeful career and the value of diversity in the workplace.

Michiko Imai, chief editor of President Woman, cited the results of a survey she conducted which showed that readers wanted a career they could feel good about and that offered them flexibility.

Yukari Yasuhara, chief editor of Nikkei Woman, noted that Japan’s shrinking labor force was behind an acceleration in work-style reform. Young people, she said, will play a key role in sustaining the push for a transformation in Japan’s work culture as the labor market shifts in their favor.

Cosmopolitan Japan chief editor Ayako Shirahige noted that she had always worked in an environment where employees are evaluated fairly based on performance and considered diversity to be a given.

All panelists agreed that business managers should inspire female workers to seek roles in management, and offer women a range of experiences in leadership early on in their careers so as to foster greater confidence.

Female labor participation in Japan has increased steadily over the years, and measures including the Bloomberg Financial Services Gender-Equality Index provides insight into the level of commitment required to build gender-equal workplaces. Bloomberg will continue to drive discussions on developments in Japan’s labor environment and work culture as the country aims to revitalize its economy.

Read more on how women in Japan are taking a greater role in the workforce, here.