by Mihoko Sumitani
When I studied gender issues in the class, I was thinking about the situation of gender in Japan. Generally speaking, it is said that developed countries tend to approach gender equality better than developing countries. Of course, Japan is one of developed countries. Then, is Japan really approaching gender equality as well as other developed countries?
There is an interesting ranking in The World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report. This report ranks countries according to the magnitude of their gender gap in four keys which are economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and health and survival. In the report published this year 2012, japan ranked 101st out of 135 countries in terms of the progress it has made towards achieving equality in these four areas. I was quite surprised to see this ranking because there are many developing countries ahead.
However, when we see Japanese society, we will witness the fact that how many men are in administrative positions in both public sectors and private sectors in comparison with the population of women. Indeed, there are some difficulties for women to keep working after they marry and have a baby. The main two reasons are that many companies are not flexible about maternity leave and that there is a gender discrimination of women staying at home and doing housework as well as taking care of their children. Furthermore, Japanese parents still have a strong tendency to make their sons getting higher education than their daughters.
I think we have to change this situation now as we are facing a declining birthrate problem. Reducing the gender gap will have a good effect on companies’ bottom lines and helps to address serious demographic challenges. Actually Japan already put the big step to close Japan’s economic gender gap. New Task Force was launched in cooperation with the Japanese government, business and civil society to close Japan’s gender gap by 10% by 2015 as the initiative of a World Economic World. I hope this attempt will work well and we all people can have diverse choices of their lives and have an equal chance to display their abilities no matter what gender they are.
Global Gender Gap Report 2012