In the annual global gender gap index published annually by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Japan always hovers around the bottom. Out of around 140 countries, Japan ranked 101st in 2012, 105th in 2013, and 104th in 2014. The gender gap index is based on political empowerment, economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, and health and survival. One might think that Japan’s ranking would be much higher this year since elevating the role of women in society has been one of the Abe administration’s top priorities. But unfortunately, Japan’s ranking in 2015 remained low (101st) and at the bottom of the G7 members.
Looking on the bright side, however, Japan did manage to move up three places. According to Asahi (11/19), Japan’s score in the political empowerment category was higher this year because the number of female cabinet members had risen from two to four as of January 2015. The paper said an increase in the percentage of female members of the House of Representatives also contributed to the higher ranking. However, a score of 0.103 in political empowerment is far from sufficient to resolve the gender gap in the country. Iceland, which ranked highest in the overall ranking, had a score of 0.719 in the same category.
Asahi wrote that more than 100 nations have some kind of quota system to increase the number of female politicians. Although Japan has not yet implemented such a policy, a parliamentary league to promote female participation in politics was launched this year. The league, headed by LDP lawmaker Masaharu Nakagawa, drafted a bill to revise the Public Offices Election Act to allow political parties to register male and female candidates alternately in the proportional representation constituencies for the Lower House. According to Nakagawa, the league is aiming to submit the bill at the next ordinary Diet session.
Meanwhile, Japan’s score in the economic participation and opportunity category declined from last year. The paper said while overall female participation in the labor market in Japan has increased, the gender pay gap has widened. This reflects the results of a separate survey carried out by the WEF showing that Japanese executives feel the wage disparity between men and women is actually expanding. The daily wrote that this is probably because although the number of working women is increasing, many of them are non-regular employees with lower salaries. According to a labor force survey conducted by the Internal Affairs Ministry from April to June this year, the number of female workers increased by 650,000 over the last two years. However, 480,000 of them are non-regular employees. Although there are some good signs, it appears that the Abe administration still has a long way to go to truly achieve women’s empowerment. University of Tokyo Professor Mari Osawa points out: “Abenomics advocates women’s empowerment, but the WEF report clearly shows that it is not helping to resolve the gender gap.”