First female head of Japan labor lobby vows to empower women
TOKYO, AP — Friday’s announcement by the first female president of Japan’s powerful labor union federation was that she would work to close the gender gap in working conditions and wages to empower women.
“Progress has been slow,” stated Tomoko Yoshino who was elected to head the 7-million-member Japanese Trade Union Confederation (known as Rengo). “I will tackle all activities at Rengo from the perspective of gender equality and diversity.”
She noted that Japan placed 120th out of 156 nations in this year’s gender gap ranking by the World Economic Forum.
Yoshino is the first female leader of the federation since it was founded in 1989,. She also has the unique distinction of having worked as a middle-sized sewing machine maker after graduation from high school. This was unlike her male predecessors, who were employed at large corporations or labor unions.
Yoshino said that she was initially unsure if her experience qualifies her for the top position. She said that she thought of other talented women who were forced to quit their jobs and not allowed to climb the ranks. “I thought I should keep their efforts and their will in mind, and decided that I shouldn’t miss this chance to break through Japan’s glass ceiling.”
Despite the existence of gender equality laws, women earn lower wages than men and are less represented in decision-making roles at school, work and other places.
Yoshino’s most important missions include annual negotiations with companies about salary increases and better working conditions. She also participates in an economic forum that was launched by Fumio Kirishida, the new Prime Minister, who has called to improve income distribution and economic growth via higher salaries. Many women are forced to work part-time, or temporarily, because Japanese labor practices prevent them from returning fully-time jobs after they have taken leave to care for their children. This is a common practice in Japan and has been one of the most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Yoshino stated that the traditional notion of husbands supporting wives who are at home caring for children leads to lower wages and suggested it was time to review the wage structure.
” A society that creates a positive working environment for women is good for all. “Empowering women can revitalize the economy, but the priority is to tackle the gender issue from the perspective of women’s rights.”