This is kinda kewl, on several levels, for us progressives. Laura D’Andrea Tyson, in the NYTImes:
Among economists (most of whom are male), there is a tendency to treat diversity and gender equality as “soft” issues – worthy social goals perhaps, but secondary to the real business of economic growth, job creation and productivity.
But these soft issues have jumped to the top of the long-term growth agenda in Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is working to shake the nation out of its 20-year deflationary slump.
So far the world’s attention has focused on Mr. Abe’s bold macroeconomic policies to lift demand and growth in the short run. These policies have been strikingly successful, confirming the validity of Keynesian remedies for an economy suffering from insufficient demand when interest rates are stuck at their zero lower bound. As a result of higher deficit spending and a vast quantitative easing program by the Bank of Japan, the Japanese economy is growing at 4 percent, the highest rate among advanced economies, and the stock market has soared by 80 percent over the last six months.
Now, after his recent impressive electoral victory, Prime Minister Abe has signaled his intention to move forward with the “third arrow” of his policy quiver — significant structural reforms to increase Japan’s long-term growth potential. His list reads like a neoclassical economist’s list of “usual suspects,” including deregulation, industrial restructuring, corporate tax reform and trade liberalization — all worthy objectives. But in a departure from tradition, he is also championing reforms to expand economic opportunities for women.
Mr. Abe believes in numerical targets, and he has established several of them to increase the participation and advancement of women in the workplace. He wants to eliminate day-care waiting lists by creating 200,000 new day-care openings in authorized public facilities by 2015, with another 200,000 by 2017. He wants businesses to double their child-care leave to three years. He wants 30 percent of leadership positions in government and business to be held by women by 2020. He is calling on Japanese corporations to appoint at least one woman to their boards. And he is considering both changes in tax laws that discourage mothers from working and new training subsidies to help them return to the workplace following child-care leave.
These initiatives are not motivated by softhearted political correctness but by hard-headed economic logic…