Japanese Prime Minister Junichuro Koizumi's cabinet has approved a gender equality plan that aims to put more women in leadership positions.
It gave the green light to a series of measures to improve employment conditions for women and encourage their return to work after maternity.
The changes, known as the female re-challenge plan, have been pushed through by the prime minister himself.
They come in response to Japan's plunging birth rate.
Japan's population contracted in 2005 for the first time since records began more than a century ago, and politicians are alarmed by the absence of women from the shrinking workforce.
Over two-thirds of Japanese women do not return to work after childbirth.