Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Can Womenomics Increase in Japan’s Overall Output?

This may be the best part about Abenomics: Increased women participation in the economy can push Japan through these tough times. Japan has been making deliberate efforts to incorporate its women workforce into its mainstream economy. Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, has been devoting special attention to this particular task.

Since its introduction in 2012, Abenomics, the economic policy advocated by the Japanese Prime Minister, has been promoting the inclusion of women into the Japanese economy. Increased women participation will not only lead to an increased workforce, it will also enhance Japan's chances of overall growth. Given its pro-women stance, the Abenomics is sometimes also referred to as Womenomics.'

It is believed that promoting women to become a part of Japan's workforce will lead to an increase in country's overall output. It also means putting power in the hands of women. Earning women will add income to the household and will eventually lead to increased consumer expenditure. After Abe took oath as the Prime Minister of Japan in 2012, the number of Japanese women entering the labor market has increased. In 2014, a whopping 66% of Japanese women were active participants in the economy. In 2011, this number was 63%. According to the OECD, the unemployment rate among women in Japan has dropped down from 4.4% in 2011 to 3.5% in 2014. Though this number is lower than the calculated average of most European countries like Switzerland (79%) and Norway (75.9%), it is a welcome change. After all, Japan is performing better than some other OECD nations like South Korea (57%) and Italy (55.2%) where a major number of women stay confined to home and do not contribute in any way to the country's economy.

Active participation of more and more Japanese women in the country's economy is a step that will positively affect Japan's economy in the long run. James Summers, the Global Co-Chief Operating Officer of Equities who overseas asset allocations for global equities totaling $2.3 bn at Acom Alliance sees a silver lining for Japan in this change. He says, "The good part about Abenomics is that it's leading to an increase in the workforce of Japan. To me, this particular trend evokes hope for the country. Japan had almost doomed demographically, but the country is fighting back with its increased women workforce." Though the inclusion of women workforce in the Japanese economy has raised hopes, this increase hasn't been as good as expected. One of key concerns is that though women have been given a chance in Japanese economy, they still only hold the lower rung of the professional structure. Japanese women have been kept away from coveted positions -- they make do with contract and part-time jobs. In Japan, only 3.1% women hold board seats in big companies. This number is much lower in comparison with United States and Canada where 19.2% and 20.8% women hold important jobs respectively.

When Abenomics was formulated, one of its prime goals was to increase the percentage of women in management positions to 30% by 2020. However, given the practicality of situation, this number has now been brought down to 15% for private and local government jobs and 7% for national public jobs. While the strategy has exhibited some results, its progress has been marred by the existent social structure of Japan.

Abenomics also aimed to encourage first time mothers’ return to their professional career after the birth of their first child. Japanese authorities expected that they will be able to encourage at least 55% first-time mothers to return to work after delivery. However, in the absence of child support, this number has become impossible to achieve. Not just that, in Japan women constantly fight with social constraints. They are expected to take care of the home and adapt themselves to the traditional gender duties. For women to be able to contribute wholly to the economy, the attitude of people towards gender roles needs to change.

However, Summers remains hopeful and feels that increased female participation in the economy will only do good for Japan.

He says, “Increased female participation is perhaps one of the best things about the Abenomics plan. It is important to bear in mind that the country may not monetarily benefit from this strategy in the short-run, but it will definitely act to their advantage in the long-run. Japan's female workforce has been grossly underestimated. The women of Japan hold the potential to push the country through these tough times."

Since being privately founded in 2003 by a group of Japan’s leading advisory and discretionary wealth managers, Acom Alliance has allied both preferred and corporate clients in one direction, successfully navigating being a full-service brokerage, wealth management and private equity investor specializing on emerging market opportunities in the region.