Japan hiring women for armed forces

Japan is planning to hire more women to join the military amid rising challenge of expanding the country’s personnel rolls while its population is at large shrinks.

The development comes after Japan’s military secured the support of its government to engage more readily in overseas adventures, according to Reuters.

“Hiring women makes a lot of sense,” Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University in Tokyo, told Quartz.

“Every modern military is expanding opportunities for women. And since Japan is falling into demographic oblivion, finding young men is going to be harder,” he added.

Japan’s defense ministry has put forward a menu of self-described “women-friendly” projects in its 2015 budget in line with the goal to address gender gap in the country. These include:

  • About ¥100 million ($817,000) to build and improve daycare facilities on SDF premises.
  • ¥20 million for the “expansion of training, etc. for enlightenment of awareness… eliminating the conventional mindset about gender roles in the workplace.”
  • Another ¥4 million to provide maternity dresses as part of military uniforms.
  • Last but not least, an unspecified amount earmarked to refurbish the women’s bathing facility in the officer training school of the Ground Self-Defense Force.

The percentage of women in Japan’s military has risen in the last few years, according to the Self-Defense Forces. In 2013, there were 5.6 percent of women in the military compared to the 14 percent in the United States and 11 percent in Germany.

Noboru Yamaguchi, a retired commanding general of the Ground Self-Defense Force and former advisor to the prime minister’s cabinet, told Quartz said that while the passage of the 2015 security laws will make it easier for Japan to engage in foreign wars, this could also make the military’s task all the harder as reports from within say that the military might result in actual fighting.

The improved economy since 2008 financial crisis has also contributed to the difficulty in finding raw material, male or female, he added.

“The military will also have to work harder to keep the women—and men—it recruits,” Yamaguchi said. The general recounts one instance years ago of having to personally step in and prevent a younger officer from being disciplined by his commanding officer for requesting time off to spend with his newborn child.

“The SDF has had to create a more family-friendly atmosphere that doesn’t pressure women to leave after becoming pregnant, said Yamaguchi.