Monday, December 07, 2015
As Heresies Go, Mine's Not Going To Make Me Too Popular
Let me just toss this out, as it has been annoying me for a while.
"Womenomics" -- the precise term invented by Goldman Sachs analyst Kathy Matsui (Link) and the Abe Government's fluffier set of programs intent on improving the status and numbers of women in corporations and government -- promise(s) to increase the size of Japan's GDP per capita and in total. By injecting the talents of women into the established sectors of the economy, corporations will have greater sales and government will become more responsive, bettering people's lives.
When since the beginning of the Meiji Period has Japan's problem been a lack of talent? Put another way, when since those very few decades after the Restoration has there been a massive need to import skilled labor?
Has not the problem in Japan been, and acutely so since the collapse in the Bubble, corporations and government sitting on talent, misapplying it or allowing it to wither?
If so, how will luring more women into the corporate and career government paths improve the performance of these entities? Without a fundamental reform in the way labor is used -- with workers allowed to flow toward more profitable and efficient enterprise -- having more women in the corporate management and government might mean only women will be gaining an equal chance at having their talents go to waste.
As for society at large, the triumph of "Womenomics" could significantly decrease public welfare. A consequences of the poor uptake of women into career path Japanese corporate and government positions has been a surplus of talented women seeking to become professionals (doctors and lawyers), working for non-Japanese corporations and establishing their own businesses and NGOs. By increasing the percentage of the women gaining access to higher level positions in The Establishment one would be shrinking the pool of talent available for these often much more socially constructive courses.
Already improving opportunities for women in corporations and government could be one of the factors behind the trend identified in a hard-to-read but still fascinating recent graph from plotted//grundriss. Entrepreneurship, rather than equalizing in between the sexes, has become an increasingly male activity. (Link)
While other factors may be in play -- the large lump of mostly male Baby Boom retirees looking for something to do with the last two decades of their active lives, for example -- the decreasing percentage of women entrepreneurs corresponds with the expected outcome from greater opportunities opening up for women in government and established corporations.
In a broader and less fair sense, should we not be more skeptical about ideas hatched in the Goldman Sachs fun factory? Kathy Matsui may be a fine human being (I cannot say, having only chatted with her that one time at that bizarre conference) but any analysis finding "the world would be a better place if more persons were able to become like us" has to be seen as at least potentially unsound -- especially if the definition of "better" is "that which allows us to sell more of our precisely targeted investment instruments."
I get it that in the aggregate having more women working increases the number of wage earners and thus the size of the economy. However, that "Womenomics" has never been shy about being a nakedly regressive nationalist social policy, pushing Japanese women into the workforce to take up mostly the sorts of jobs other societies have immigrants do -- receiving thunderous applause from international circles in the process -- that I do not get.