The November 12th print edition of the Economist is carrying a piece on the new salaryman in Japan and the obvious changes in demographics. It is available now at the Economist .com. The employment situation in Japan has improved drastically and going forward we can expect an enhanced role also for both women and seniors.
I am somewhat concerned however about the role of women in corporate Japan and in Japan in general. Although their workforce participation numbers lag the U.S. and U.K. by about 7%, I am not sure how wise it is to try and get more women to work. One issue for women with children is a shortage of childcare centers and the tendency for the mother to quit work in order to stay at home with her child/children. The answer to this would be to build more childcare centers, which the government intends to do.
Another issue is that if more women work more or in larger numbers they will most likely be less inclined to have children. We have witnessed this as the number of working women has increased over the years in Japan. Maybe it is about the availability of childcare centers after all. Whatever it is, it has serious implications for Japan -- as you probably already know and will see from the article -- as there is a shortage of babies in the country, creating a population that resembles an inversed pyramid.
Yet another issue is the decline in the number of multi-generational families living under one roof, where historically the mother or grandmother would take care of children.
There are plenty of critics that slam Japan's almost "closed-door" policy on immigration. Believe it or not this is getting better and foreign workers already in Japan are said to be being treated better. A key point over the next several years is Japan developing an immigration policy that allows skilled workers in more easily and openly while simultaneously expanding the use of robotics to replace elderly and less efficient workers.
Here's an excerpt to an interesting piece on the human-capital side of Japan:
THE salaryman, the loyal, lifetime drone of big corporations and once the symbol of Japan's post-war miracle, has had a tough time in the post-bubble years. If he has not been sacked, or had his company go under, he has been asked to take cuts in pay and bonuses, and to work even longer hours. Now, with the Japanese economy's gradual recovery, the salaryman appears to be regaining some shine. For the first time since the start of the decade, the numbers in full-time employment are growing, while net recruitment for part-time employment and those on temporary contracts has come to a halt. Incomes for full-time workers are on the rise again at last. But salarymen are not exactly what they used to be.