Japan's first lady says husband helps with chores
Tokyo: Japan's first lady says she has such a busy schedule that sometimes it's up to the prime minister to do the dishes or take out the garbage.
It's the kind of flexibility that she says is needed for the advancement of women in Japan.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing companies and the government to hire and promote more women. He appointed five women to his 18-member Cabinet yesterday.
His wife, Akie Abe, told that her husband gives her time for a wide range of activities, from raising organic rice to appearing in a gay pride parade.
Despite her husband's conservative image, she says he does chores when he can.
"Sometimes he tries to move things out of the way, but I end up scolding him for putting things in the wrong place. Poor thing," she said.
Abe, 52, says she is often out all day, leaving her little time for housecleaning. She sometimes hears her husband mumbling about the house, but despite his conservative image he is never a bossy husband telling her to do things for him, she says.
Even though she openly refers to herself as a member of the "opposition in the household" on some issues her husband favours, such as nuclear energy, she is a big supporter of his policy of promoting women's advancement, which has been dubbed "womenomics."
Akie Abe says women tend to work harder than men in many parts of the world but they are not represented fairly.
It's important that society allows women enough flexibility to work again after child-rearing or other life events that often interrupt their professional careers, she said.
In Japan, even highly-educated women are under-represented in senior-level positions in companies, government or universities.
Women have long been discriminated against in salary and promotion in corporate Japan, and often faced obstacles to pursuing their career due to lack of help in child care and helpful spouses.