From diversity to inclusion and engagement improvement

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In Japan, female career development, reform of working practices and diversity have become popular trends. In September 2015, the Active Women’s Act was enacted, and in June 2018, a reform of working practices was enacted. On top of that, a number of other factors have also played into women's social advancement in Japan, including labour force declines (due to low birth rate and longevity), improvement of work consciousness (supported by the rising university advancement rate), and low economic growth (which has led to a decline in male income), as well as a steady increase in the number of female employers. As a result, it became clear that women's social advancement into society was inhibited by childbirth and childcare, but the so-called "M-curve" has improved in recent years — even though it has not yet lessened when compared to foreign countries.

However, the M-curve is reducing due to the spread of childcare leave systems and the development of childcare centres. Now, it is becoming more possible for women to continue to work, largely thanks to the increase in irregular employment of women. Women can choose low-income, non-regular work for specified reasons, such as: "can work in their own convenient time" or "easy to co-exist with family circumstances, such as housework, childcare and nursing". Moreover, in Japan, the percentage of women in executive officer and management positions is still low. Women’s employment is gradually progressing, but their professional duties remain in supporting roles, and they face many challenges in terms of career formation and development.

Hereafter, Japan will likely confront an unprecedented shortage of labour, along with a workforce decline. Therefore, it is a must for Japanese companies to secure not only women but also employees of all generations and various nationalities and promote their activities over the short and long term. Not only can diverse employees co-exist in the company or organization (diversity), each one should also be respected as a member of the organization and participate in organizational decision-making and activities (inclusion). This increases every employee’s willingness to contribute voluntarily and display their power (improvement in engagement), which can directly increase the competitiveness and productivity of an organization.

There are various initiatives in Japan to improve inclusion and engagement, but they are entangled together. Even if individual efforts are implemented, it’s often not possible to see the effects. In order to link these efforts together and reconstruct a company's competitiveness, we need to follow three steps: ① build trustworthy relationships, ② encourage time/location flexibility, ③ respect diversity and individuality.    

Rina Bando 
by Rina Bando 

Career Consultant

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