Is There Gender Inequality in Japan?

June 27th, 2013By Category: Uncategorized

Is There Gender Inequality in Japan?

[From January Issue 2013]


The World Economic Forum has published its “Global Gender Gap Index” for 2012. This index evaluates the gender gap in four fields: political empowerment, economic participation, health, and educational attainment. The nation with the best score for gender equality was Iceland, followed by Finland and Norway. The highest ranking countries were Northern European. Japan was ranked 101st out of 135 nations.


The report points out that although the standard of education for women is high, there are few female members of congress or corporate executives in Japan. According to Corporate Women Directors International (CWDI), Norway has the best ratio of female corporate executives, at 44%, while Japan came 38th with 1.4%. Out of the 42 nations surveyed, only the Gulf nations came lower than Japan.


In addition, figures published in the Economist in 2011, showed that only 11.3% of members of congress were female in Japan. Though the number of female members is increasing, Japan has one of the lowest ratios of females in national congress in the world. Taking these figures into account, non-Japanese may think Japanese women are badly treated in Japanese society.


However, in the USA women make up 16.8% of members of congress and in France 18.9%, which is less than the 19.3% global average. For an advanced country Japan does not have a particularly low proportion of female members to male menbers in power. In Japan there are no obstacles for women becoming members of the Diet. It’s thought that the reason there are so few female corporate executives is largely related to Japanese culture.


A culture which traditionally divides labor with men working outside the home and woman bringing up children, is deeply rooted in Japan. In other words, women mainly prepare meals and raise children at home, but are actually the ones with the most power. Husbands generally give all their salary to their wife, who manages the family budget.



It seems that this tradition makes corporations reluctant to promote women to executive positions, while conversely women are not that keen to become executives themselves. In recent years the idea that women lead happier lives than men is gaining ground in Japan. According to a survey into birth trends by the Ministry of Welfare and Labor, since 1997, the majority of women want to give birth to girls. In the 2012 London Olympics, more female athletes participated than male athletes. Opportunities for women to take a leading role are continuing to grow.


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