Pay gap worst for Japan’s mothers

Kyodo, AP

Working mothers in Japan suffer from the largest pay gap with men among major developed countries, the OECD, a grouping of the world’s most developed nations, says in a new report.

The median salary of working Japanese women with children is 61 percent lower than that of men, the largest gap among the 30 countries with available data, the OECD said Monday, adding that the gap averaged 22 percent.

The 34-member OECD compiled data on the salaries of full-time workers between the ages of 25 and 44, within the child-rearing age for women, mainly in 2008.

The report says “many Japanese women still withdraw from the labor force upon childbirth and often cannot resume their regular employment pattern: in the dual Japanese labor market, women often end up in relatively low-paid nonregular employment.”

The salary disparity between men and women in Japan of all ages whether they have children or not came to 29 percent, the second-largest after South Korea, it says.

The report also says Japan’s tax system discourages married women from working, as it “provides financial incentives for dependent spouses to limit earnings and avoid paying income tax.”

Trimming or eliminating this discrimination could provide a significant source of growth for ailing economies, the OECD said.

On average, a 50 percent decrease in the gender gap in labor force participation would lead to a 0.3 percentage point increase in annual GDP per capita growth rate in OECD countries, according to the report.

“Investment in gender equality yields the highest returns of all development investments,” the report says.

“Gender inequality means not only forgoing the important contributions that women make to the economy, but also wasting years of investment in educating girls and young women.”

A key part of the solution is promoting access to affordable child are, the OECD says.

“If child care eats up one wage so that there is little or no financial gain in going out to work, parents (most often mothers) are less likely to seek a job,” the report states.