TO BE A WOMAN IN JAPAN – analysis of gender equality in Japan

by Albanita_Cokaj on January 3, 2015 - 12:27pm

The analysis of the Japanese society remains in some aspects still misunderstood, but the impressive economic transformation of Japan has been watched with great interest by the industrialized world.
The educational system, the workplace, and the family in Japan have shaped the opportunities open to female workers. Women move in and out of the workforce depending on their age and family duties, a great disadvantage in a system that emphasizes seniority and continuous work experience. Japanese society "underinvests" in the capabilities of women. The effects of this underinvestment are reinforced indirectly as women sustain male human capital through unpaid domestic labor and psychological support.
In education area a strong gender gap can be seen. First of all, the national average ratio of female principals at primary schools was only 17.9% in 2007, while that of female teachers was 62.5%. Also the percentage of female students majoring science or engineering at universities is the lowest among OECD member countries and falls behind most of Asia and Pacific countries. According to Inter Parliamentary Union’s Survey of January 2014, Japan ranked 127th. Japan’s rank has been receding every year, although the percentage has been slightly increased. For the issue of local politics, the situation has been slowly improving as the average percentage of female members of local council is 10.4 %, in contrast to the percentage of  1.6% in 1976. One of the reasons for this significant improvement, is that a number of female local politicians, with background of civil movements, work harder than their male counterparts. NGOs such as Fusae Ichikawa Memorial Association have provided trainings of women who want to be local politicians. Those activities partly contributed to increase women in local politics.                                                                                              

However, at same time, women often suffer from negative and stereotypical images produced by mass media. Female politicians are often asked about their family life or appearances rather than their political carriers. Also their male counterparts tend to state ultra-conservative views towards gender equality issues. According to standard Japanese politics, women often do not have three important requirements to become politicians: money, supporters and popularity. As those three requirements are particularly important for national level politicians.                                                                                                                                                   

The gender gap is increased by many different reasons that force women to stay as fulltime housewives, such as tough working conditions, tax and pension systems, attitudes, culture, social norms and negative role of media which portray stereotyped image of women. The analysis of tax and pension systems allows to understand in a clearly way, the reason why many women decide to stay at home or to work part-time instead than to have a fulltime job. As for tax systems, spouses whose annual income is less than 1.03 million yen are entitled to have several privileges: they are freed from paying tax and their working husbands can get tax exemption for their spouses from their income. Under the pension system, unemployed or with income of less than 1.3 million yen, spouses of full time workers who are under the welfare pension program and mutual aid pension program are not required to pay for their pension. But they can receive public-pension when they become 65 year old. Hence, the average income of Japanese women has been kept lower than that of other countries. Furthermore, fathers inability to take child care leaves, despite of their wish, it’s another factor the emphasizes the gender gap. Their work don’t allow them to take a child care leave and so the working place environment stop men to do it, and taking a child care leave means also a decrease of the income. Men are somehow discouraged by taking a child care leave.                                                                                                                                                                                          

As it was possible to see from this brief analysis, the gender gap in Japan is a controversial issue, but probably with time it can be solved by the elimination of social prejudice, by the empowerment of women in obtaining more economic and political power, knowledge and skills and  by providing better public service which promote women’s employment and social activities .


Gender equality is a question which people tend to forget when tourists go to Japan. Tourist admire the technological advancements, the city, the culture but they barely talk about or notice the gender equality. I know because I've been to Japan and I didn't pay attention to woman's role in the society. The sustainable development of Japan is very good, example the technological advancements, doing their part keeping the environment clean and their economical flow's but their socio-political needs improvements in the ethical issues of the country's.