March 10, 2018

March 7, 2018 Lecture with Ms. Atsuko Muraki

“How to promote work-style reforms in Japan”




On March 7, CUAAJ had the Lecture Event with Ms. Atsuko Muraki, Former-Vice Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, titled “How to Promote Work-Style Reforms? Ms.Muraki encouraged participation and facilitated active discussion on the topic of work-style reforms and women’s active participation and diversity in Japan.

Ms. Muraki is well known for being wrongly accused of a fraud and detained for about five months, yet proved her innocence and succeed to be the second women to serve as Vice Minister in the central government. When she joined Ministry of Labour in 1978, years before the enforcement of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, females were in the minority (2-3%) in the ministry. She married her colleague at age 26 and gave birth to two daughters at age 29 and 35. Because the couple lived far from their home towns, they could not rely on their parents for child care. Yet, with support from nursery schools and others, Ms. Muraki managed to balance work and family. After retiring from Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare, she joined Tsuda University as Guest Lecturer and Itochu Corporation as Member of the Board.




Ms. Muraki presented current challenges we face in Japan in terms of decreasing population and birth rates coupled with increasing cost of social securities and decreasing tax income. She pointed out that employment rate of Japanese woman is characterized with M curve and decrease significantly between age 29 and 39 unlike other developed countries, and that Japan placed 114th out of 144 countries with regards to gender gap index, which shows the differential between men and women. She pointed out that many women resign from work after having a child because it was too difficult to balance work and childrearing, and women felt there was little supportive culture or systems at work.

Although there are more double income families, Japanese men spend only 1 hour or so per day for household duties, which is far less than other developed countries and pervasive long working hours is one of the major reasons why women face difficulties in balancing work and childrearing and end up resigning. Due to these challenges, the law for promoting women`s active participation was introduced and Japanese firms are taking actions for work-style reform. However, Ms. Muraki herself is frustrated as she thinks right direction is set but the speed of reform is slow in Japan.



She invited the participants for discussion. There were several views on this 1) the consensus making culture of Japan slows the decision making, 2) the current leaders are hostage of their own successful experiences and cannot adapt to change, thus we need to succeed to the next generation of leaders, 3)Life time employment of Japanese corporations affects the productivity and sustain top heavy conservative decision makers, 4) the unconscious bias for diversity and differences are so ingrained in our culture that we need to tackle that bias in order to accelerate the work style reform. Thanks to Ms. Muraki`s inspirational presentation and sharing precious experiences, we were able to reflect on the current challenges and what we may be able to do to better shape the future of Japan. It was truly special night to learn and openly exchange with Columbia Alumni and friends.


Chie MORIKAWA, Class of 1996 Columbia Business School


Be the first to comment

You’re not logged in. please login or create an account.
with your social media account
with your social media account