Are older women the economic saviours of Japan?

Japan’s working-age population has shrunk more than 11 percent from its mid-1990s peak, and still falling. This has made companies desperate for talent and it seems that older women (those aged 55-64) are filling the vacancies.

In 2013, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the General Assembly of the UN;  “Creating an environment in which women find it comfortable to work and enhancing opportunities for women to work and to be active in society is no longer a matter of choice for Japan. It is instead a matter of the greatest urgency.”

In terms of bringing women into the workforce, Womenomics seems to have been a resounding success.

Though all ages of women are working more in Japan, one group has responded to Womenomics more than any other. In January 2013, just 55% of older Japanese women were working or looking for a job. In May of 2017 that number had reached 63.6%.

So, are older women are saving Japan’s economy? According to this article in Quartz, they are. These additional older female workers have been crucial to keeping the Japanese economy plugging along—Japan’s per capita GDP grew by 1.1% in 2016.

As a result of this rapid growth of women in the workforce, Japan’s female labor market participation has surpassed that of the US.

Steps taken by the Japanese government to promote women entering the workplace included;

  • Expanded government-sponsored day care
  • Awarded government contracts to companies that hire more women,
  • Capped the amount of overtime employees can work in order to create more work-life balance for working mothers.
  • Promoted flexible work arrangements.

The latter in particular, is music to the older workers ears. In addition to conditions, workplaces must adapt to the changing needs of older workers to ensure optimal productivity.

Japan’s super-aged society is a living text book on ageing societies that other countries can learn from. Encouraging women in the labor force is one very clear example of good practice.

Needless to say, economically active, working women have more money to spend making them even more influential consumers than they were before.