Hosted by Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) Japan and presented in collaboration with Yuta Hasumi of Ikigai Authentic, our latest HR leader gathering in Tokyo brought together a diverse cohort of HR leaders representing some of the most prestigious brands in Japan and across the globe. Addressing the current state of DE&I initiatives in Japan, we explored topics such as gender disparity, diverse hiring, and the dangers of a target-driving approach to inclusion.
Yuta Hasumi, Founder & CEO of Ikigai Authentic
Yuta Hasumi, Founder & CEO of Ikigai Authentic, kicked off the day by presenting a detailed analysis of current trends and data, specifically focusing on the context in Japan. He gave an update on the latest regulatory requirements for employers and shared recent legislative developments and changes in wider society, especially regarding gender, disability, and civil partnerships. DE&I initiatives in Japan primarily focus on women in leadership and disability hiring, while other agendas, such as diversity and inclusion in terms of ethnicity, religion, and LGBTQ, are often overlooked.
The gender gap in Japan is concerning. Compared to the UK, which ranks 15th, and the US, which ranks 43rd, Japan ranks 125th. The percentage of women in boardrooms is also low in Japan, with only 6.2% compared to the UK’s 34.5% and the US’s 29%. Japan’s performance regarding the role and influence of women in the workforce is another hot topic. It ranks second from last among developed nations for the seventh year in a row, according to an index compiled by The Economist, featured in The Japan Times.
Work-from-home and hybrid working during the pandemic provided more equal opportunities, especially for working mothers. Participants generally agreed that these policies had a positive impact. However, the recent trend of returning to the office raises concerns about whether this progress can be sustained. In Japanese societies, where women are typically expected to take on childcare or caring for elderly relatives, the push for higher attendance in the office could pose challenges.
The Japanese government sets strict targets for employers to hire a certain percentage of their workforce who have disabilities. However, there is a debate about whether this target-driven approach is the right approach, as it pressures employers to hit targets rather than provide genuinely inclusive and integrated working environments.
The participants agreed that providing equal opportunities and an inclusive workplace environment for everyone can lead to increased innovation, loyalty, better decision-making abilities, and harmony. While everyone agreed that DE&I is crucial, they acknowledged that implementing an environment that embraces these concepts in Japan is challenging. The attendees felt that hiring a diverse workforce is one challenge. Still, the more difficult task is to provide a truly inclusive environment, especially for employees with physical or mental disabilities. One of the HR leaders in attendance pointed out that some specialist educational institutions can help prepare workers and employers before employment and continue providing counselling services and support after onboarding.
Challenges when Recruiting Internationally
Japan’s lack of recognition of same-sex partnerships can make it difficult for employers to attract international talent. Partners of foreign workers are rarely eligible for residence or employment visas, which can be an obstacle, especially when considering Japan’s demographic challenges, such as a declining birth rate, population, and ageing society. Some companies now provide equal benefits, which comes at a significant cost to employers since benefits providers do not recognise these partnerships. A change in legislation has been proposed to improve the situation.
Some of the other talking points during the session centred around job seekers increasingly choosing to work for organisations more closely aligned with their values. Organisations with a diverse workforce, strong equity policies, and a truly inclusive working environment can now access broader talent pools in a competitive market. A diverse workforce also helps organisations attract a broader consumer base and mitigate risks for the business, as there is a wider range of opinions and views to consider multiple perspectives.
After the roundtable discussion, JLL gave us a tour of their new offices, designed using the latest technology and concepts of the Future of Work, Well-being, Sustainability and DE&I at its core. The offices feature a yoga studio, a prayer room, and a nursing room for working mothers.
We would like to thank Yuta, Tanvi Choksi, APAC CHRO, the team at JLL Japan, and our HR community in Tokyo for making this event a great success. We are excited to bring our network together again soon for further thought leadership opportunities in Japan and around the world. Keep an eye out here for details about upcoming global HR leader gatherings.