Listen Economists Heidi Hartmann and Chris Farrell: How the high cost of daycare is ruining careers of women in the U.S.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2013 made "womenomics" a central part of his public policy platform to boost economic growth.
Japan has a tight labor market and in light of its demographics more women working is one of the easiest ways to add to growth. Japan is no paradise for working women. Nevertheless, the fact that Japanese women have a higher labor force participation rate than their U.S. peers--a stunning change--suggests we can learn from the Japanese experience.
Japanese women receive 58 weeks of maternity leave, with about half of it paid. Fathers are entitled to the same benefit, although few take advantage of it.
The government is increasing the number of daycare centers nationally, especially in major metropolitan areas. It's on target to creating 400,000 new prekindergarten spaces by 2018. Demand for spaces currently still outstrips supply. The government also loosened the rules on qualifying for state-subsidized daycare.
Beginning in April 2016, the government will require large Japanese companies to report their percentages of female hires and female managers, as well as goals for both.
In the U.S., the leading edge of Millennials are having children at a time when the cost of child care is on the rise. For instance, child care and nursery school prices increased at a 4.5 percent rate from July, 2014 to July 2015 compared to an overall gain in the consumer price index of 0.2 percent. Depending on the state, the average cost of full-time care for one infant in a center ranges from 7 percent to 16 percent of state median income for a married couple, according to Child Care Aware of America. The average cost of center-based infant care is greater than 23 percent of median income for single parents in every state.
Between 1970 and 2009, without the increase in women working women--almost 38 million more women--the economy would be 25% smaller--an amount equal to the combined GDP of Illinois, California, and New York. Unlike Japan, The issue in the U.S. may be less than about changing cultural norms--critical in Japan--and more about child care and paid family leave.
Chris Farrell is a regular contributor to MPR News and author. Listen to his new podcast and Unretirement. Farrell joined George Washington University Prof. Heidi Hartmann on MPR News with Kerri Miller. To hear their in-depth conversation on women in the workplace use the audio player above.