With 25 years of sluggish economic growth, Japan’s per capita income has fallen from a level matching the average of the top half of OECD countries in the early 1990s to 14% below that today. Weak growth, together with rapid population ageing, has driven public debt into uncharted territory. Revitalising growth is thus the top priority for the Japanese government. With the labour force shrinking more rapidly than the population, per capita output can only grow through improvements in labour productivity and labour force participation. Japan’s highly-skilled labour force and its technological leadership can help close the gap with leading OECD countries in per capita income. But broad-based structural reforms, as envisaged in the third arrow of Abenomics, are needed to allow these strengths to fully achieve their potential. The initial impact of Abenomics in 2013 was impressive, and the reform process needs to continue.
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To achieve greater gender equality in employment and more inclusive growth, Japan needs to change the workplace culture and ensure that the tax and social security systems do not reduce work incentives for second earners in households.
Japan could help laid-off workers find a job more quickly by improving co-ordination between public employment services and companies, as well as ensuring that all workers benefit from adequate Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, according to a new OECD report.
Job displacement (involuntary job loss due to firm closure or downsizing) affects many workers over the course of their working lives. Displaced workers may face long periods of unemployment and, even when they find new jobs, tend to be paid less and have fewer benefits than in the jobs they held prior to displacement. Helping displaced workers get back into good jobs quickly should be a key goal of labour market policy. This report is the second in a series of reports looking at how this challenge is being tackled in a number of OECD countries. It shows that Japanese employers and the government go to considerable lengths to avoid the displacement of regular workers while also providing considerable income and re-employment support to many of the workers whose jobs cannot be preserved. Challenges for labour market programmes include expanding labour market mobility between regular jobs, improving co-ordination between private and public re-employment assistance for displaced workers, and avoiding that job displacement pushes older workers to the margins of the labour market.
Reconciling work and family commitments is a challenge in every country, but particularly for Japanese men and women. Much more so than in most other OECD countries, men and women have to choose between babies and bosses: men choose bosses, women less so, but on the whole there are very few babies and there is too little female employment. These shortcomings are increasingly coming to the fore and will have to be addressed.
Two rounds of the Survey of Adult Skills are under way: Round 1 (2008-13) with 24 participating countries, whose results were released in October 2013, and Round 2 (2012-16) with 9 participating countries, whose results will be released in 2016. A third round is scheduled to begin in May 2014.