The World Economic Forum (WEF) released its Gender Gap Report on June 21. I would like to discuss Japan’s ranking in the Gender Gap Index.
Japan’s ranking in the Gender Gap Index is as follows.
Among the G7 countries, Germany was the top-ranked country in 6th place, up four places from 10th the previous year. It was followed by the United Kingdom (15th), Canada (30th), France (40th), the United States (43rd), and Italy (79th). Japan was the only country that did not even make the top 100, falling nine places from 116th the previous year to its lowest ranking ever. The percentage of women in parliamentary and ministerial positions is low, and the country is in the lowest group in the political field, ranking 138th. Japan also ranked 123rd in the economic field, reflecting the labor participation rate and the gender gap in wages. In the education sector, the country also fell in rank to 47th place due to a lower enrollment rate of women in higher education.
The Gender Equality Bureau of the Cabinet Office, which promotes “women’s activities” rather than gender equality, usually posts a statement on the Gender Gap Index on its website, but although Japan’s ranking in the Gender Gap Index of 125th/146th countries (announced on June 21, 2023) is posted, the rankings for each field have not yet updated as of June 24.
Discussion Point 1: “Japan’s ranking in the Gender Gap Index is 125th/146th, a drop of nine places from 116th place last year and a record low.”
Since the Gender Gap Index rankings are relative, it is only natural that the country’s ranking would be lower than the speed at which the gender gap in other countries is improving. The main reason for this is that the ranking in the areas of “Politics” and “Economy” has not improved at all from its very low ranking position, compared to “Education” (99.7%) and “Access to Health Care” (97.3%), when looked at by sector.
Discussion Point 2: “The political sector is the bottom group, ranking 138th.”
In the political field, the ratio of male to female members of the Diet (lower house members) was 0.111 (131st), while the ratio of male to female cabinet members was 0.091 (128th). As long as the ratio of men to women in the Diet, the legislative branch of government, does not change significantly, it is unlikely that a quota system will be introduced. It will not be easy to replace male incumbents who have vested interests with new female candidates. In addition, elections are held approximately every three years, so there are not many opportunities to replace female Diet members. As for cabinet ministers, there are often two female ministers, as promised, which is the very ratio of men to women on the board.
Discussion Point 3: “The economic sector also ranked 123rd.”
As for the economic sector, the ratio of male to female employees in managerial occupations is 0.148 (133rd), showing no improvement. Starting this year, listed companies are required to report the ratio of female managers and the gender wage gap in their annual securities reports (since last year, companies employing 300 or more workers have been disclosing this information to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare), but it appears that the ratio of female managers is about 10% and the gender wage gap is around 70-80% in many companies. The government has a history of failing to achieve its previous target of 30% female managers by 2020, and has postponed the achievement date to “as soon as possible” until 2030. I am concerned about whether the target can be achieved in another seven years, but at such a slow pace, the rate at which the ranking will rise is likely to be limited.
Discussion Point 4: “In the area of education, Japan also fell in the rankings to 47th place due to declining enrollment of women in higher education.”
Education, which ranked first with 100% in the previous year, dropped to 47th place due to the addition of higher education (college and graduate school) enrollment. The gender gap in higher education is very noteworthy. The gender gap in higher education is behind the creation of female managers and the gender wage gap. It is also likely to have an impact on the advancement of women into the political arena. To solve this underlying issue, it is necessary for men to deepen their understanding of women’s higher education enrollment and for the government to improve scholarship programs to provide equal educational opportunities.
In summary, I have considered Japan’s ranking in the Gender Gap Index released by the World Economic Forum on June 21.
Since the Gender Gap Index rankings show relative rankings, Japan remains in the times in the areas of “Politics” and “Economy,” and if other countries improve their gender gaps at a faster pace, Japan’s ranking will decline.
As for the political field, the ratio of male to female Diet members was 0.111 (131st) and that of male to female Cabinet members was 0.091 (128th). As long as the ratio of male to female members of the Diet, the legislative branch of government, does not change significantly, the introduction of a quota system is not expected. It is not easy to replace male incumbents who have vested interests with new female candidates, and since elections are held approximately every three years, there are not many opportunities to replace them with female legislators, so closing the gender gap in this area will not be easy.
As for the economic sector, the ratio of male to female employees in managerial occupations remains low at 0.148 (133rd). Disclosure of information on the ratio of female managers and the gender wage gap has begun. Although the gender wage gap depends on the small number of female managers, there is no sense of acceleration in the government’s goal of achieving a 30% ratio of female managers by 2030.
There are differences in higher education enrollment rates between men and women. The gender gap in higher education affects female managers and the gender wage gap. It is important to solve this fundamental problem. One way to do this, of course, is to increase men’s understanding of women’s higher education enrollment, but one way is for the government to improve scholarship programs to provide equal educational opportunities, as we cannot expect rapid change in the political arena.
Aki Matsumoto, CFA
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Aki Matsumoto, CFA