Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida poses with newly appointed ministers at Prime Minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, 10 November 2021 (Photo: Reuters/Kimimasa Mayama)

Author: Emma Dalton, RMIT

Gender inequality is a stubbornly entrenched problem for Japan. It ranked 120 out of 156 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index (GGI) Report 2021, which measures the gap between men and women in political representation, economic empowerment, education and health. This puts Japan at the bottom of the ladder among the developed world.

In comparison, neighbouring China, South Korea and Singapore were ranked 107, 102 and 54 respectively, while the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom were ranked 30, 24, 50 and 23 respectively. What is remarkable about these reports is the fact that Japan’s ranking has not improved over time, unlike in other countries.

In 2006, the first year the Report was published, Japan ranked 79 out of 115 countries while France and Bangladesh ranked 70 and 91 respectively. France and Bangladesh gradually narrowed their gender gaps, rising to 16 and 65 by 2021. Japan has not followed the trend of other countries — even those not considered ‘advanced democracies’ — in closing the gender gap.

Japan’s poor GGI ranking is due to women holding low status positions in the workforce and the underrepresentation of women in politics. Although 77 per cent of Japanese women work today — a higher rate than the OECD average of 66 per cent — more than half of them are employed in non-regular roles. In comparison, less than a third of working men hold non-regular positions. ‘Non-regular’ work includes temporary, part-time or casual jobs that offer limited security, few benefits, low wages and low prestige.

Japanese women’s salaries hardly rise throughout their career. Men and women usually start working in their 20s, where they receive similar <a target=_blank …continue reading