The head of the club of the world’s richest countries said on Wednesday Japan needed to have a bigger “sense of crisis” about its financial predicament.
Angel Gurria, the secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said Japan’s stratifying society and widening income inequalities need to be addressed.
Gurria said the country’s woeful record on female employment was compounding the problems of a society that was getting old fast.
“The top 10 per cent of Japanese earn 10 times more than the bottom 10 per cent,” worse than the average of the 34 OECD member states, he told a forum of journalists, diplomats and academics in Tokyo.
The income gap between men and women - the second largest in the OECD behind South Korea - was a glaring example, he said.
“Women are under represented in Japan’s labour market. When they do participate, they are over-represented among non-regular workers. This widens the gender gap in Japan,” he said. Gurria said Japan needs to address this inequality to help mitigate the problems associated with its rapidly ageing population.
“Already you are the oldest workforce in the OECD. Without incorporating women, you are going to have a very fast decline and of course the only way which you can compensate for that is active immigration policies.
“We have to make it attractive for women to get back in to jobs. This is a priority for Japan.” Japanese companies, which once provided generous benefits and life-time employment for workers, have increasingly shifted to more part-time or contract workers to cut hiring costs.