Japan Defense Ministry to recruit more female SDF officers

Female officer candidates for the Self-Defense Forces attend an induction ceremony in Sapporo.

The Defense Ministry plans to make full-scale efforts to increase the number of female Self-Defense Force officers, in keeping with the policy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet to promote women's participation and advancement in the workplace, according to sources.

The ministry intends to examine relevant overseas organizations, where female personnel are promoted more often than in the SDF, and overhaul the work situation for women in the SDF, the sources said.

Specifically, the ministry plans to study the efforts of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to which a female SDF officer was dispatched in December last year, and exchange opinions with NATO officials in charge of promoting female personnel.

The SDF restricts the assignment of women to submarines, fighter jets, tank troops and some other areas based on such reasons as "protecting motherhood" and "securing privacy between men and women."

Even when there are no such institutional restrictions, few women are said to be promoted to senior positions in certain job categories in the SDF.

The ministry also compiled Wednesday a plan to promote female SDF officers' active participation while maintaining their work-life balance.

According to the plan, the ministry intends to increase the number of in-house daycare facilities at SDF stations and other places, and conduct flexible personnel management such as providing female officers with training opportunities before and after childbirth and child rearing.

There are now about 12,600 female SDF officers, accounting for 5.6 percent of overall SDF personnel at the end of fiscal 2013.

According to the plan, the ministry plans to boost the percentage of women in its top ranks, which currently stands at 2.8 percent, and among newly hired officers, which is now 7.6 percent. Concrete measures will be devised by the end of next fiscal year, according to the plan.

While the total number of SDF personnel is decreasing mainly due to the chronically low birthrate and aging population, the percentage of female SDF personnel is rising.

A senior ministry official said: "It's an urgent issue for us to establish an environment to hire more female personnel and foster their promotion."