The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has reduced job opportunities for many women and taken a toll on their lives. It is hoped that efforts to utilize human resources will be accelerated by stabilizing the employment of women.
The government has compiled this year’s plan on priority measures for women’s active participation in society. In reference to the spread of the virus, the government stressed that the public perception of the division of roles, in which family responsibilities are concentrated on women, has become evident.
The burden on women from housework, child-rearing and nursing care increased as schools were closed and family members refrained from going out. Many women are likely to agree with the government’s characterization of the current situation through its priority policy.
There are concerns about an increase in domestic violence due to anxiety over daily life and stress. Single-mother families have suffered serious economic damage.
It is appropriate that the government’s priority measures include improving the counseling system for domestic violence victims and encouraging men to take childcare leave, as concrete steps. It is essential to establish a user-friendly system.
One concern is that the employment environment for women has become increasingly severe. According to a Labor Force Survey in May, the number of non-regular workers decreased by 610,000 year on year, of which women accounted for 70%.
This is believed to be because the pandemic battered the restaurant and lodging industries and others that hire a large number of female part-time workers.
Besides having their employment contracts terminated, many women apparently had no choice but to quit their jobs for family reasons such as child-rearing and nursing care.
Non-regular workers tend to be used to adjust the employment situation during a recession. The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promoted the expansion of women’s employment, but the percentage of regular female workers remains low. It is hard to say that the situation has helped stabilize their lives.
The nation’s working-age population is expected to continue to decline. To maintain economic growth, an environment in which women can work stably must be created.
The government should not only improve the treatment of non-regular workers but also facilitate them to switch to the status of regular workers by expanding vocational training. It is also crucial for the government to urge companies to allow those who quit their jobs for childbirth or nursing care to return as full-time employees or be reemployed under different arrangements.
Stopping short of quitting, many mothers have been forced to take days off work as they have no place to leave their children because of the pandemic.
Childcare services have been recognized once again as important social infrastructure. Improving the treatment of nursery teachers and relevant workers and increasing their numbers is an urgent task.
The government has set a goal of raising the percentage of women in leadership positions to 30% by 2020. According to a national survey, women account for 14.8% of those in corporate management posts. The figure is low even from the international viewpoint.
Utilizing diverse human resources and improving the labor environment will likely help companies raise their productivity. The government is urged to extend active support for such efforts.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on July 15, 2020.