October 21, 2016 8:20 pm JST

Tokyo must reform, boost role of women to attract investment, Gov. Koike says

SAM NUSSEY, Nikkei staff writer

TOKYO -- The nation's capital has to work harder to attract foreign investment, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said here at the Japan Summit: Future Works event on Friday.

Foreign direct investment into Japan is no higher than into the landlocked nation of Burundi, she said at the event organised by The Economist magazine. It is too difficult to start a business in Tokyo, and the city lacks services for foreigners such as international schools, she said.

The city hopes hosting the 2020 Olympics will boost its profile. However, without a relentless focus on costs, "there will be a negative legacy" of underused sites after the event, Koike said. Last week Rome joined Hamburg and Boston in abandoning its bid for the 2024 Olympics, citing the high costs of hosting the event.

"We are at an important turning point for the Olympic movement," she said. "We have to prove we can make the Olympics sustainable." One cost-cutting measure being discussed is relocating the rowing venue out of the city.

"The London Olympics were successful because the Paralympics were successful," Koike said.

Organizers hope that by making a success of the Paralympics, Tokyo can learn to become a more accommodating city that is easier for the elderly and foreign visitors to navigate.

Koike swept to power in August promising to restore trust in the institution of governor after the previous two incumbents resigned over funds-related scandals. The city's 13 trillion yen ($125 billion) budget gives the governor a high profile.

In September Koike gathered 400 of Tokyo's top bureaucrats and made them promise they would reduce their subordinates' long hours and boost support for employees with children.

"The idea that working overtime is a virtue needs to change," she said at the time.

Now workers throughout the government are being encouraged to make similar declarations. "Long working hours is a business model for the high economic growth era," she insisted.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is introducing a competition among its bureaucrats to see which department can reduce overtime work the most.

Koike, who was once a TV anchor and has an ear for a catchy phrase, has had success in promoting changes to Japan's working culture in the past.

As environment minister she persuaded top business leaders, including the head of the Japan Business Federation, the nation's foremost business lobby, to support her Cool Biz campaign, which encouraged Japanese businessmen to wear short-sleeved shirts in the summer to reduce the use of air conditioning, thereby cutting energy consumption.

Demographic challenge

However, Koike faces a far greater challenge in her efforts to improve Japan's deteriorating demographics.

If current trends continue, Japan's population will fall from a peak of 128 million in 2010 to 58 million in 2100 -- the population in 1900 -- according to the Cabinet Office.

By 2025 the baby boomer generation, who experienced Japan's swelling postwar prosperity, will be over 75 years old.

"I want to make Tokyo a place where people can feel safe and raise children with peace of mind," Koike said.

While female participation in the labor force has risen recently, there is a lack of women in senior positions.

Fewer than 10% of politicians are women, Koike said. Japan has just one female university chancellor, at Hosei University.

Japan's business culture, in which white-collar workers often bond in the evenings over drinks, hinders women from making the connections needed to rise through the company, she noted.

Women also do not have the same training opportunities as men at key stages of their careers.

"If there are women in decision-making positions, that would have a significant meaning in terms of improving diversity," Koike said. "Female participation would lead to development at those companies."

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