TOKYO -- To address lagging labor participation by women, the Japanese government will start weighing corporate efforts for recruiting women in giving out public contracts.
The central government spends roughly 12 trillion yen ($117 billion) a year on purchases, service contracts, construction and other projects. In the initial stage, to start next fiscal year, it will revise procurement standards for goods and services to favor companies promoting women.
The program will be gradually expanded to public works projects, with the goal of covering contracts totaling several trillion yen a year.
When the government holds open bidding for public works, it assesses contractors by assigning points based on qualifications such as technological prowess and cost-competitiveness. Under the new system, the percentage of women in the total workforce, or the ratio of women executives, will be added to their scores.
Safety must come first in certain projects, such as building a big bridge or a high-rise building. In those cases, the government will first narrow the list of candidates based on technology and costs. Then from a pool of companies with compatible engineering skills, the one with the highest percentage of women will be selected.
The industry, finance and land ministries have begun discussing the details and also started soliciting input from related industries. The new initiative will be included in economic policy guidelines to be adopted in June, with procurement rules to be revised as early as the end of the year.
The government plans to encourage municipalities to adopt similar programs as well.