Statement by Dr. Nobuko Kurosaki
Alternate Representative of Japan
on Advancement of women (Item 63(a)) and Implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (Item63 (b))
62nd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations
15 October 2007
Japan strongly believes that progress for women is progress for all, and the principle must be observed in order to achieve internationally agreed development objectives, including the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Millennium Development Goals, and the outcome document of the 2005 World Summit. Toward this end, Japan recognizes the importance of continuing to engage in activities to create a gender equal society at the domestic, regional, and international levels. I would like to give you a brief overview of the progress that Japan is making in its efforts to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women.
In order to create a gender equal society, women must have a critical role in decision -making. As the Millennium Development Goals Report 2007 shows that the women's political participation is growing globally, but there is still much to be done if the goals are to be achieved by 2015.
In Japan, the Government clearly states in its Second Basic Plan for Gender Equality that "in all fields of society we can expect to see the proportion of women occupying positions of leadership increase to at least around 30% by 2020," and it has been promoting policies to achieve that end.
I am also pleased to inform you that in the last election for the House of Councillors held in this July; newly 26 female parliamentarians were elected for the 121 seats being contested. As a result, the House of Councillors, which has 242 seats in all, now has 43 female parliamentarians and the proportion of that body they represent has thereby risen from 13.6 % in 2004 to 17.8% in 2007.
The fiscal 2007 budget for promotion of gender equality in Japan was approximately 4,700 billion yen (approx. 39 billion US dollars). Of all the items in the budget, around 30%, or 12 billion US dollars, goes to the item; "support the efforts of women and men to harmonize work with their family and community lives". Another 3 %, or 1.3 billion US dollars is allocated to the item; "enrich education and learning that promotes gender equality and facilitates diversity of choice".
Allow me to explain that, in Japan, as in many other countries, women are struggling to strike a good work-life balance, as they are confronted with traditional gender roles and gender-based division of labor. While the ratio of newly recruited female employees within the entire newly recruited work force is increasing, the number of female executive members at companies remains comparatively low. Additionally, the labour force of Japanese women shows the lowest rate within the child-raising age group due to the typical working pattern of Japanese women who exit the labour market once they marry or have a child and then return after a few years.
Among its effort to improve this situation, Japan, for example, set the target in the Second Basic Plan for Gender Equality, to raise the ratio of taking childcare leave for men, from 0.56% in FY2004 to a target of 10% by FY 2014.
In addition, Japan adopted in 2006 Amendments to the Equal Employment Opportunity Law and to other related laws that took effect in April 2007. One of those amendments extends the scope of a prohibition against lay-offs to include disadvantageous treatment for reasons such as pregnancy and childbirth.
Japan also proactively engages in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women at the international level.
In July 2007, we cosponsored the "ASEAN Plus Three (China, Republic of Korea and Japan), Human Security Symposium on Women and Poverty Eradication" in Tokyo. The gender experts from the region were invited to participate in the two-day meeting and the public symposium at which Dr. Muhammad Yunus, Managing Director of the Grameen Bank, delivered a statement entitled "Women and Poverty Eradication." This event provided an important opportunity for the participants to exchange information and experiences on their national strategies, programmes and efforts to reduce the feminization of poverty. At the end of the meeting, the recommendations were adopted on how the ASEAN Plus Three might alleviate the feminization of poverty, by taking steps relating to poverty reduction policies, data collection, access to resources and services, capacity building and partnership and international cooperation.
Furthermore, in August 2007, Japan also cosponsored the symposium entitled "Care Economy: Strategic Perspective for Achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)" held by the Japan/UNDP Women in Development Fund (JWIDF) with the cooperation of UNDP and various NGOs. The symposium contributed to sharing the importance of incorporating "care economy" with gender perspectives into each country's economic policy and aid policy for development.
Realizing that gender equality and the empowerment of women are the common goals for every society, and achieving these goals requires continuing efforts, I would just like to point out that regional dialogues are therefore an effective measure in sharing information, good practices and lesson-learned in mainstreaming gender in similar social and cultural contexts. Regional dialogues are also a process that can help identify ways to collectively respond to emerging gender-related problems, such as human trafficking, HIV/AIDS and natural disaster that are trans-boundary and thus require close collaboration within the region.
Before concluding, Mr. Chairperson, I wish to make the point that as gender equality and the empowerment of women are a cross-cutting issue, coordination and strategic partnerships within the UN system are of critical importance. In this regard, we note the UN system-wide coherence panel has called the current gender structure fragmented and incoherent. The delegation of Japan wishes to assure our continuing support for enabling the UN to carry out its operations in a truly coherent, efficient, and effective manner.
Thank you very much.
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