The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

High on the corporate agenda is the issue of female participation in the workforce. It is up to board members and managers at all levels to create an environment that encourages and motivates female workers to participate in the workplace. For this, both the company atmosphere and culture need to be considered.

One of the main issues that Japan faces is long working hours. In terms of female participation in the workforce, life events such as having children can create barriers. It is for this reason that more companies should introduce flexible work styles and enable staff to work from remote locations when possible. In addition, both national and local governments could assist parents by increasing the number of daycare centers and support for having children.

Increasing the participation of female workers in their late twenties and early thirties is essential because it allows for the cultivation of leaders in the company. In order for women to continue to build their careers, they need role models within the company to whom they can refer and ask for advice.

While the situation has improved to an extent, the M-shaped curve that charts women’s employment is still much more pronounced in Japan compared with other industrialized nations. The curve follows life events such as marriage and raising children, showing how the number of women in the workforce drops and then recovers.


There is data to suggest that increased participation of women in the workforce provides a significant boost for business success. While looking at the Fortune 500 companies, the upper 132, with a higher percentage of female directors, had a better management index compared with the lower 129. Return on equity was at least 53 percent higher, return on sales was at least 43 percent higher, and return on invested capital was at least 63 percent higher.

Companies that consciously promote women are often more proactive in improving their overall work environment. This goes hand in hand with creating a better work–life balance for all employees. It is likely that, in those cases, the general corporate culture generates better business outcomes.

Japan faces an aging population and a decreasing birthrate, and it is hoped that an improved work–life balance will help improve the situation. The lack of daycare centers has garnered considerable attention recently as being an increasing problem. Further, the current environment for raising children needs to be tackled if the birthrate is to improve to counter the issues related to Japan’s aging population.

In France, for example, many parents take advantage of babysitters who often come from overseas. It would be wise for Japan to relax visa conditions for foreigners to attract such individuals. Additionally, improving the working conditions for daycare staff, is vital to meet the needs of working parents.

In addition, since 2002 French fathers have been able to take up to 11 days of paternity leave. In the first year, 60 percent of fathers took advantage of the system.

Work style reform—especially the introduction of flexible working hours, telecommuting, and reduction of long working hours and overtime—is another facet that needs to be addressed.

In line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s goal to increase female participation in the workforce, the board of Adecco Japan is now 50 percent female. The proportion of female managers is still lower than that of male managers, but the company will continue our efforts to increase this number.

Recently, Adecco Japan CFO Kana Odawara was listed on Staffing Industry Analysts’ Global Power 100—Women in Staffing list for 2016, which covers the most influential women in the North American, European, and international staffing industries. As the global leader in HR solutions, Adecco will continue to strengthen its presence as a thought leader in Japan.

By Christophe Duchatellier, CEO, Adecco Asia Pacific, Adecco Group
In terms of female participation in the workforce, life events such as having children can create barriers.