Japan’s poor gender gap worsening, WEF survey finds

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may have set the empowerment of women as a major pillar to spur economic growth, but Japan’s already poor gender gap has gotten even worse, according to a report by the World Economic Forum released Friday.

This year’s Global Gender Gap Report ranks Japan at 105th among 136 countries, its worst showing since the WEF started the survey in 2006. Japan ranked 101st last year.

The drop was mainly due to a decrease in the number of female lawmakers, the report says. Of the 722 lawmakers in both chambers of the Diet, only 77 are women.

The ranking is based on numerical analyses of women’s status in finances, education, politics and health. Japan scored especially poor in politics, ranked at 118th in the world.

Iceland topped the list for the fifth consecutive year, followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden. The United States was 23rd, one rank down from last year, while the United Kingdom remained 18th for the second straight year.

The Philippines was at the top in the Asia-Pacific region, ranking fifth worldwide, followed by New Zealand, which came in seventh globally.

South Korea slipped three places this year to 111th due to a decrease in female participation in the labor force and significantly unequal wages between genders, the index shows. China was 69th.

At the bottom of the list were Chad at 134th, Pakistan at 135th and Yemen at 136th

Japan did score well in some categories, including literacy and secondary education enrollment. Japan’s rank in wage equality between men and women improved 10 places to 87th, the report says.

The WEF said that overall, the world gender gap narrowed slightly this year. Improvement in the Asia-Pacific region, however, is slower than in other regions except the Middle East and northern Africa.

The government has set a goal of increasing the percentage of women in leadership positions in every area in society to 30 percent of the total by 2020.