Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 11 April 2024

India can learn from Japan’s ‘womenomics’ reforms

Relevance: GS Paper I & III

Why in News?

Japan faced decreasing fertility rates, a stagnant economy, and a declining population. In 2014, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe committed to gender equality and introduced a set of reforms known as "womenomics" as part of the "Abenomics" era. Today, these reforms are proving to be successful, and Japan has emerged as one of the wealthiest economies in Asia.

Japan’s ‘womenomics’:

  • The rate of women’s participation in the workforce in Japan has increased by ten percentage points, from 64.9% in 2013 to 75.2% in 2023.
    • This increase is the fastest in Japan's history and the highest amongst the G7 countries in the past decade.
  • The largest increase in workforce participation is observed in the 30-34 and 35-39 age groups. This indicates that more mothers have returned to work.
  • Furthermore, this increase in workforce participation by approximately three million women is helping Japan address the problem of labour shortages.
    • It is estimated that this increase in participation could have increased Japan's GDP per capita by between 4% to 8%.
  • Most of the "womenomics" reforms are linked to investments in the care economy and efforts to rebalance gender norms.

Rethinking care work and responsibility:

  • Investing in childcare infrastructure:
    • The Japanese government invested in expanding daycare capacity from 2.2 million in 2012 to 2.8 million in 2018, reducing the sometimes long waiting lists for daycare.
    • In 2023, the Japanese government announced a further boost in investment of $26 billion for childcare measures between 2023 and 2026.
  • Reforming parental leave policies:
    • Japanese parents were entitled to year-long partially paid parental leave, with women receiving 58 weeks and men 52 weeks.
    • In 2022, greater flexibility in the paternity leave provisions was introduced, reducing notice periods and allowing men to break up their paternity leave.
    • Moreover, mandatory disclosures of paternity leave uptake, introducing flexible work, and encouraging companies to demonstrate that taking paternity leave would not hinder career progression have helped boost paternity leave uptake from 2% in 2012 to 17% in 2023.
  • Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace:
    • In 2016, Japan's Act on Promotion of Women's Participation and Advancement in the Workplace made disclosures of diversity action plans and diversity data mandatory.
      • This led to the introduction of the "Eruboshi" certification, a five-star system recognising companies committed to workforce diversity.
      • The certification has become aspirational among Japanese firms today, with the number of companies receiving the Eruboshi certificate growing from 815 in 2019 to 1905 in 2022.

Shared similarities between India and Japan:

  • India and Japan share several cultural similarities, one of which relates to the social norms surrounding domestic work.
  • Among the G20 countries, India and Japan have the widest gender gaps in unpaid care, with women performing about 8.4 times the amount of unpaid work in India, notionally valued at 15% to 17% of GDP, and 5.5 times in Japan, similarly valued at about a fifth of GDP.

Way forward  (lessons India can learn from Japan)

  • Increasing WLFPR: India is working towards women-led development, and Japan's experience in enhancing the Women's Labor Force Participation Rate (WLFPR) to drive the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) offers some important lessons.
    • The first lesson is that interventions to reduce the gender gap in domestic and care work have a major impact on WLFPR.
      • Japan saw the highest gains in WLFPR when it made long-term public investments in care infrastructure and services, especially childcare.
    • Secondly, changing people's mindsets around social norms is as important as formulating progressive regulations. The Japanese experience shows that legal entitlement to gender-neutral parental leave is insufficient.
      • To encourage men to take parental leave, employers need to dispel gender stereotypes around care work.
    • Thirdly, it is essential to invest in a wide range of care infrastructure and services that cover childcare, elder care, domestic work, and long-term care for highly dependent adults.
      • This investment can reduce dependency and lead to the growth of the silver economy.
      • Japan has leveraged private sector partnerships to invest in affordable senior living and care services.
      • As the share of the elderly in India's population is expected to rise from 10% to 20% by 2050, India will need to prioritise elder care infrastructure and service investments.
  • Policy changes:
    • After conducting an in-depth analysis of over 100 international best practices from around the G20 countries, including Japan, as well as notable domestic practices in India, a private research group in Economics, along with the Confederation of Indian Industry, and with the support of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, has formulated a five-pillar strategy. This strategy is aimed at unlocking business opportunities in India's care economy, with a focus on the following areas:
      • Implementing gender-neutral and paternity leave policies, providing subsidies for availing/providing care services, enhancing investments from both the public and private sectors in care infrastructure and services, offering skill training for care workers, and ensuring quality assurance for care services and infrastructure.


Japan's "womenomics'' initiatives have significantly increased women's labour force participation, leading to economic growth. India can learn from Japan's success. After nearly declining continuously for five decades, India’s WFLPR has begun showing a rising trend, increasing from 23% in 2017-18 to 37% in 2022-23. To keep this momentum going, India will require a continued long-term focus on the care economy to unleash # NariShakti and achieve a Viksit Bharat @2047.


Mains PYQ:

Q. “Though women in post-Independent India have excelled in various fields, the social attitude towards women and feminist movement has been patriarchal.” Apart from women education and women empowerment schemes, what interventions can help change this milieu? (UPSC 2021)

Q. What are the continued challenges for Women in India against time and space? (UPSC 2019)

Q. How does patriarchy impact the position of a middle class working woman in India? (UPSC 2014)

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