TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged the nation's business leaders on Tuesday to do more to boost the role of working women, a key plank of a new growth strategy he was set to unveil later in the day.
Abe, who took office 18 months ago pledging to end deflation and generate sustainable growth with a three-pronged strategy of monetary easing, fiscal spending and reform, is due to outline the latest tranche of his so-called "Third Arrow" of long-term economic policies.
The package will include steps to boost the role of working women - seen as vital to address the shrinking workforce in one of the world's most rapidly ageing societies.
In a meeting with business executives, Abe urged companies to set targets for promoting female workers to senior jobs and disclose information on progress in annual earnings reports.
He also said the government would make necessary legal changes to promote female participation in the workforce in central and local governments, as well as companies. "We'd like to act with speed on this," Abe said.
Abe's remarks came one day after a Tokyo assembly member from his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had to apologise for heckling a female local lawmaker with sexist comments.
Most of the growth measures to be formalised - including a phased-in corporate tax cut and reform of the world's biggest pension fund - have been announced already and are likely to receive muted applause from financial markets and experts, who say the package is a step in the right direction but want to see how the measures are fleshed out and implemented.
Private economists surveyed by Reuters forecast that the plan could boost Japan's potential growth rate by 0.2-1.5 percentage points from its current level of around 0.5 per cent. But they noted that it would take time.
"Even after the government growth strategy is announced, various legislation must be enacted and it will take time for companies to begin to act. Therefore, it will be 10 to 20 years before the potential growth rate rises," said Kenji Yumoto, vice chairman of the Japan Research Institute.
Yumoto said it was possible, but very difficult, for Japan to hit the 2 per cent growth level the government says is needed to reduce its mammoth public debt.