Paul Jacob

Should more women work outside the home?

If additional women desire to do so, sure — of course.

But what if those same females wish not to labor outside their humble abodes?

The answer follows just as easily: no, they most certainly should not.

I don’t even need to hear the reason. You see, a woman is first a free individual with certain inalienable rights. Women are not merely cogs in the machine of their nation’s state.

Does that matter to the debate?

It really should.

Let’s consider this issue not in America, but in Japan. A front-page feature story in The Washington Post presents the perils of childbearing and rearing in the land of the setting sun. Not the risks to the mother or child or the family, mind you, but the impact on national economic output and power.

In a recent speech, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe touted his new economic policies, explaining simply that, “Abenomics won’t succeed without womenomics.” By that, he means that to end nearly two decades of economic stagnation and deflation in Japan, more women must enter the workforce.

Due to the island nation’s low birth rate, combined with official animosity toward immigration, The Post reports that, “the population is on track to shrink 30 percent by 2060, at the same time 40 percent of its citizens will hit old age.”

In addition to a drag on economic growth, this obviously presents huge budgetary problems for maintaining a welfare state wherein smaller numbers of young workers are forced to pay for larger numbers of older retirees.

Be advised that the labor participation rate in Japan is 84 percent for men and 21 points less, 63 percent, for women. In the United States, labor participation rates are lower, with 70 percent of men working, 58 percent of women working.

Meanwhile, bean counters have discovered a magic economic elixir: pushing more women into the 9-5 economy. Kathy Matsui, Goldman Sachs’s chief Japan strategist, points out that, “If you could equalize this, you could boost GDP by almost 13 percentage points, because you would be adding 7 million-plus workers to the labor pool.”

We’re informed that Japan “is at the low end of most statistical charts when it comes to women in the workplace.” The Post cites a report by the World Economic Forum, which ranked Japan 105th out of 136 on gender equality issues.

Of course, in this same survey, Cuba bested the USA. Seems to me most women would prefer living in Japan or the U.S. to living in Cuba.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.