Closing Japan Gender Gap May Boost GDP 13%, Goldman Says

Japan’s workforce would swell by more than seven million people and output would jump if participation by women equaled that of men, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in its latest “Womenomics” report.

Closing the gender employment gap could boost Japan’s gross domestic product by as much as 13 percent, analysts led by Chief Japan Strategist Kathy Matsui wrote in a note dated yesterday. The role of women in Japan’s workforce will likely get a “renewed focus” as the government in June announces a revised growth strategy and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calls for increased labor participation, according to the report.

“As a result of a shrinking and greying workforce, acute labor shortages and a recovering economy, a growing number of policy makers and citizens are finally becoming convinced that gender diversity in the workplace is no longer an option, rather, it is an imperative,” the report said. “Japan can no longer afford not to leverage half its population.”

Matsui first published her ideas on how to upend gender roles in Japan’s workforce in 1999. Invoking the strategist by name in an essay for the Wall Street Journal last year, Abe said her doctrine is a “vital component” of his growth strategy.

While Japan’s female labor-force participation rate rose to a record 62.5 percent last year, it still trailed the 80.6 percent rate for men, according to the Goldman Sachs report. In a 2010 Womenomics update, Goldman Sachs estimated the potential increase to GDP from closing the gender workforce gap at 15 percent.

“The potential GDP boost has become slightly smaller, but nevertheless remains significant and one of the highest in the developed world,” the latest report said. “Japan’s female labor participation remains low versus other countries, too few females occupy leadership positions, gender pay gaps persist, tax distortions discourage married women from participating fully in the workplace, and gender-related corporate disclosures remain inadequate.”

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