Opening remarks by Angel Gurría
12 April 2016
House of Representatives, National Diet of Japan
(As prepared for delivery)
Distinguished Members of Parliaments, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome you to this meeting of the OECD Global Parliamentary Network here in Tokyo. This is the first such meeting ever to be held in Asia; and I am glad that a number of Members of Parliaments from Europe, Latin America and other regions join us today.
Allow me to thank Mr. Tadamori Oshima, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Mr. Yamazaki Masa-aki, the President of the House of Councillors, for generously hosting the meeting. I would also like to thank my dear friend Nikai-san, for his initiative and leadership in making this event possible.
This is a timely event as Japan gears up to host the G7 Isé-Shima Summit in May to tackle a range of global challenges related to economic growth, diversity, disaster management, trade, investment, and development. The Global Parliamentary Network aims to provide a platform where legislators from Asia and beyond can share their policy challenges and best practices, and bring back the best solutions to their own countries.
We are here to address key challenges
We will be addressing together some very important and shared challenges.
One of the key topics in our agenda is the challenge of disaster risk management. Japan’s experience in dealing with the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, as well as its leadership on disaster risk awareness, will be crucial to help countries manage risks and improve their resilience. In this respect, I wish to congratulate Japan on the recent designation of the 5th of November as the UN World Tsunami Awareness Day.
The OECD has also been supporting Japan raising awareness through initiatives like the Tohoku School Project. I am proud to say that this project has given birth to a new, more global Innovative Schools Network, linking schools not only across Japan, but also in countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore.
Another key issue that you will be addressing is the multifaceted challenge of gender inclusion. This is a crucial challenge. In OECD countries the average gender wage gap is still at an unacceptable 15%. Parliaments are a key platform for the promotion of gender equality. Increasingly, OECD countries are putting in place experiences and effective policies to promote gender equality and we need to share these practices through fora such as the GPN.
Japan is one of the champions of the recently adopted OECD Recommendation on Gender Equality in Public Life. In addition, Japan has also reserved one year of paid leave for fathers – the most generous allowance in the OECD! It also increased the replacement rate of parental leave for the first six months from 50% to 67%, and extended leave entitlements to part of the non-regular workers.
However, challenges persist. Few fathers – less than 5% in Japan – make use of paid parental leave, in part because they worry about the negative effects this could have on their career. In France, for example, where men represent only 4% of parents claiming parental leave benefits, almost 50% of the fathers who did not use their full entitlement said that they were simply “not interested”.
Finally we will be taking a broader look at key regional challenges in Asia. Emerging-market economies are losing steam, world trade is slowing down and uncertainties related to financial fragilities continue to hold back investment.
While the growth of trade in emerging and developing economies in Asia remains relatively robust, the global slowdown poses a significant risk to Asian economic growth. This remains a key challenge for all of us to address as Asia is playing an increasingly important role in the global economy.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our countries are struggling to leave the crisis behind. Growth prospects are still disappointing. Our societies have lost trust in their governments, parliaments, corporations, banks, international organisations, you name it. But even worse, they are losing trust in the future. It is our duty to reverse this situation. Parliaments can make the difference. You can make change happen. You can make reform happen. Let’s keep learning from each other. Let’s keep helping each other. As the wise Japanese proverb says: ‘Naseba Naru’ - If you take action, it will happen.