Tokyo College Event “Envisioning a far more female future of Japan” by Mr. Bill Emmott - Tokyo College

Tokyo College Event “Envisioning a far more female future of Japan” by Mr. Bill Emmott

2019.05.15 @ 13:30 – 15:30

Former editor-in-chief of The Economist Bill Emmott’s lecture on “Envisioning a More Female Future of Japan”

On May 15, 2019, Mr. Bill Emmott took the stage for a lecture on “Envisioning a More Female Future of Japan” in what must be commemorated as the first public lecture at Tokyo College. Mr. Emmott, who is active as an international journalist and is a former chief editor of The Economist, analyzed the path taken by Japan up to this point and considered its future, on the basis of his own experience from living in Japan and obtained through interviews. He then participated in a dialogue with Professor Sawako Shirahase (Executive Vice President of the University of Tokyo)

First, Professor Masashi Haneda (College Director) introduced the purpose of Tokyo College, newly established by the University of Tokyo in February 2019, and of the lecture. Tokyo College was established in order to tackle a range of challenges that are difficult for traditional universities, as a space to consider and search for an ideal future for the planet and humanity in an interdisciplinary manner with motivated persons from around the world. Mr. Emmott will be a Fellow of Tokyo College for the next five years.


Changes during the 30-year Heisei era, the present, and the future

Mr. Emmott summarized changes that took place in Japan in the last 30 years as the following six items: (1) a declining birthrate and aging population; (2) the collapse of the bubble economy; (3) changes to the “composition of economic activity;” (4) a decline in “the rate of marriage;” (5) an increase in the number of women wanting to attend four-year colleges; and (6) an increase to the labor force participation rate of women. He said that these changes have led to the formation of a society in which many people feel more financially insecure than before, even though the unemployment rate is extraordinarily low. Nowadays in Japan, a new generation of women who have graduated from university (in their 20s, 30s, or 40s) is working in various organizations, but there is a labor shortage. Predicting that women will play a central role in Japan’s future, Mr. Emmott stated that how Japan develops and uses this human capital is the key issue for how well the economy proceeds in the future and that “humanomics,” rather than womenomics, is the central issue. Further, he explained that the three elements of “humanomics” are: (1) women should contribute more to Japan’s wealth and living standards; (2) the development of an increased mutual commitment between employer and employee (for both men and women); and (3) dealing with issues such as stress and karōshi (death from overwork).

Mr. Emmott expressed concern about the fact that Japan is far behind other developed countries in terms of gender equality, especially in the fields of politics and medicine. As specific countermeasures, he referred to two connected systems: the labor contract law, and taxation for married couples. Last year, Prime Minister Abe said that he would abolish the term “non-regular.” However, Mr. Emmott stated that, “The 2018 law, like its predecessor reforms, does not go far enough towards providing greater security for employees on contracts that are not permanent. What is needed is greater clarity in law for the terms of contracts that include pre-agreed severance payments and allow pension rights to become portable.” Focusing on the fact that there are many women who are unable to get out of part-time or similar forms employment at low wages, under the current tax and social security systems, Mr. Emmott predicted that, “Abolition of the spousal deduction, really a marriage tax, would also help greatly… If we see either of those reforms happen in the coming years, we should then become a lot more optimistic.”



After the lecture, a discussion was held between Mr. Emmott and Professor Sawako Shirahase (Executive Vice President of the University of Tokyo), an expert in social stratification, social demography, and change in family and social systems. Professor Shirahase first explained the basic structure of gender disparity observed in Japan and the University of Tokyo, respectively, at present. She also remarked that the University of Tokyo has become a member of the 30% Club Japan* in order to reduce the gender disparity. The dialogue looked at a range of topics such as specific measures to improve conditions, and options for marriage, based on examples from England, France, and elsewhere.

In a discussion of how to convince middle-aged men (who have benefitted the most until now) when introducing practical change, Mr. Emmott mentioned that it is important for them to realize that companies must ultimately adopt gender equality in order to pay their pensions properly. Professor Shirahase also stated that it will take time to achieve diversity and gender equality, and asked how costs should be paid in that period. Mr. Emmott responded that it is dangerous to adhere to short-term thinking and continuity that has been meritorious in the past, and that it is necessary to realize that it is possible that there will be a decline in the availability of young talent compared to the past, and that more diverse talent will be required.


※30%Club Japan

Date(s) May 15th (Wed), 2019, 1:30 - 3:30 pm

Koshiba Hall, The University of Tokyo (Hongo Campus)

Registration Pre-registration required (150 seats available -First come, first served)
Language English and Japanese(Simultaneous translation available)
Organized by Tokyo College, The University of Tokyo

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