Japan’s Continuing Struggle with Gender Parity
About Japan and Gender
- Japan ranked lowest (116 out of 146 countries) among the developed countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2022.
- Amongst the G7 group, most of the countries have ranked between 10 and 27, except Italy which was ranked at 63.
- Japan ranks below 130 when it comes to women in Parliament and women as senior officials and managers.
- Women hold a mere 10% of Japan’s parliamentary seats as compared to around 30% or more in the G7 countries.
- Japan has not had a female head of the state in the past 50 years.
- Japan has less than 5% women in middle management and senior management in the central government.
- Japanese women earn about 57% that of men, making this wage gap one of the worst among OECD countries.
- However Japan has a perfect score on gender equality in educational attainment.
- Health and survival of women including healthy life expectancy also stands near a perfect score of 0.97.
The reasons for this inconsistency:
- In speeches, Japanese politicians have referred to women as birth-giving machines. Even though such statements were retracted later, these show the society’s views towards women.
- Medical schools in Japan were reported to have rigged the entrance examinations to ensure that 70% of the students enrolled were males.
- This was done since they assumed that women tend to leave the medical profession later in life due to marriage and child birth.
- High per capita income does not guarantee gender equality as the latter is based on social and cultural norms.
- In Japan it is common to refer to one’s wife as ‘kanai’, which means ‘the one inside the house’ while an office worker is referred to as salaryman regardless of gender.
- Staying at work till the boss does and then joining late evening nomikai or conversation over drinks are the expected norms in Japanese work-life. This makes it highly restrictive for married women, usually the primary caregivers, to have strong careers.
The consequences of this?
- This inequality has resulted in a sharp decline in marriage rates and fertility in Japan which has become one of the worst in rich countries.
- Marriage rates in Japan have fallen by 50% since 1970 and total fertility rates have reduced to 1.3 children per woman (2021).
- Low marriage rates have led to a fall in consumption and investment as unmarried people consume and invest less than households.
What has Japan done?
- Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe laid emphasis on ‘womenomics’ as one of his key policy measures.
- It was aimed at boosting female labour participation, and increasing the percentage of women in leadership positions to 30% by 2020.
- However, this goal was not achieved as even Abe’s cabinet failed to achieve this.
What needs to be done
- Japan’s struggle with gender parity teaches us that investing in women’s education and health may have limited impact if that society is trapped in gender norms that restrict women from capitalising these investments for themselves, the society and the country.
- Policymakers must take cognisance of such evidence as this can trap us into other economic problems as we chalk out the path for a developed India.
Source The Hindu
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