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The Asian Productivity Organization (APO) recently concluded a multicountry observational study mission on Industrial Human Resources Development for Women in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, 3–7 April 2017. The five-day mission examined the role of the public and private sectors in promoting gender equality in the workplace and was attended by 16 mid- to senior-level women involved in career development from the government, academia, and industry representing 11 APO member countries.
The most important determinant of a country’s competitiveness is its human capital. Securing the quantity and quality of human resources to meet a country’s industrial development needs is crucial. However, some countries in Asia are facing a serious challenge of shrinking workforces and labor shortages due to rapidly aging populations and declining birth rates.
Experts suggest that one way of meeting the emerging needs of industries for labor is to tap the potential of women. In most Asian countries, however, prevailing cultural and policy biases against equal work opportunities for women prevent them from finding gainful employment or utilizing their talents to the fullest.
While emerging trends in modern production processes are making them increasingly gender neutral, which provide greater opportunities for women, policy development and implementation of programs for women’s capacity building and empowerment remain insufficient. There is a need to sensitize policymakers, government officials, and industry leaders in Asian countries to the importance of adopting more inclusive policies and programs to unleash the potential of women and enable them to participate and contribute in various capacities to society.
The study mission, which was implemented with the support of the Government of Japan, allowed the participants to study the policies and support programs of the Japanese government that help foster industrial human resources development by empowering women. It also included visits to successful businesses initiated and managed by women in Japan.