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Did you know that Japan has a Minister of State for Gender Equality and Social Affairs?

Well, they do:

Kuniko Inoguchi, the recently named minister for gender equality, said companies need to respond more to the needs of working mothers by granting child leave for fathers and not encouraging pregnant women to quit.

“If you decide to have a family, and eventually you decide to go back into society, you’re never fully employed and never fully paid,” Inoguchi told a small group of reporters.

“So the opportunity cost for many women is very high,” she added. “My suggestion is that we have better policies for a work and life balance.”

This isn’t just an ethical concern:

Japan’s population of 127 million began to fall for the first time on record last year, fanning worries that future generations of workers won’t generate enough tax revenue to care for the growing legions of elderly.

At the center of the population debate is the question of how to encourage women to have more babies. Japan’s average fertility rate of 1.29 babies per woman is one of the lowest in the world.