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A third of Japanese working women were sexually harassed: study

AP, AFP-JIJI

A government study has found that nearly a third of working women who responded to a survey reported being sexually harassed on the job, such as being subjected to unwanted physical contact or degrading comments.

The study, released Tuesday and the first of its kind, examined responses from more than 9,600 women employees, submitted by mail or online. The response rate was 18 percent. It did not give a margin of error.

Of the respondents, 29 percent said they had suffered sexual harassment. The most common type of harassment was having their appearance or age become the focus of conversation, at 54 percent.

The next most common was unwanted touching at 40 percent, followed by sexually related questions at 38 percent. Twenty-seven percent were asked out for meals and dates.

More than 63 percent said they kept quiet, although they were reluctant to do so. The survey did not cite their reasons for staying silent.

And about one in 10 who did complain, however, said they were treated unfairly for speaking up. Penalties they suffered included being demoted.

Japan trails much of the world in achieving gender equality, ranking 101st among 145 nations and economies in the World Economic Forum’s study on the “gender gap,” which measures how fairly women are treated based on economic, educational, health-based and political indicators.

Although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made encouraging women to work and get promoted a pillar of his policies, progress has been gradual.

Economists have said for years that Japan needs to make better use of its well-educated but underemployed women. This, they say, could go a long way toward plugging the country’s labor shortage.

One big reason behind that effort is that this nation’s society is aging and the workforce is rapidly shrinking. Women now occupy about 8 percent of leadership positions in companies hiring 100 people or more.

Tuesday’s study did not propose any specific measures for how the situation could be fixed, such as stiffer penalties for harassment or discrimination.

In many companies, women are placed on a different career track from men. They often have part-time jobs, partly because many men rarely help out with housework.

The “M-curve” in employment that used to be so pronounced in the West for women some years ago, in which they drop out of the workforce to have children then rejoin later, is still prominent in Japan.

The study also found many complaints of “maternity harassment,” in which women were bullied into quitting their jobs when they became pregnant, or were targeted with suggestions they do so.

In speech after speech, Abe has urged the country to open up to “womenomics,” encouraging some of Japan’s biggest firms — including Toyota, Panasonic and All Nippon Airways — to announce targets for boosting the number of female executives.

While women are widely represented in poorly-paid, part-time work, only a fraction of executives at 3,600 listed companies are female.

  • 151E

    Twenty-seven percent of those complaining of sexual harassment report they were asked out for meals and dates. That’s only sexual harassment when the guy isn’t ikemen. No wonder so many young Japanese claim that relationships are mendokusai.

  • Johnny Kanoock

    Discussions on age or appearance are not necessarily sexual harassment, men have these discussions with men all the time (as I’m sure women do with women) Cast a wide enough net, you will always find issues. This just waters down true sexual harassment and these types of stats have to stop.

  • Liars N. Fools

    This just reflects the number who are prepared to report sexual harassment. Shame on Japan. Not surprising, though.

  • Liars N. Fools

    This just reflects the number who are prepared to report sexual harassment. Shame on Japan. Not surprising, though.

  • 108

    “examined responses from more than 9,600 women employees, submitted by mail or online. The response rate was 18 percent.”

    Drawing conclusions at a national level from 1,728 responses?

  • leconfidant

    I take sexual harassment very seriously,
    but if they include
    ‘being asked out for dinner or dates’
    as sexual harassment,
    it’s very hard to take the 30% figure seriously.
    Has the questionaire asked women,
    ‘Have you been asked out to dinner or dates by co-workers?’
    and then chalked that up as “harassment”,
    without the woman responding being aware of this?
    There seems to be a regular industry among professional feminists of inflating statistics to crate generous budgets for themselves.
    Then the rest of us have to walk on eggshells for being human.

    If I find someone attractive at work,
    which isn’t criminal, or harmful in any way,
    how do I progress towards romance without starting WW3?
    Do I need permission in writing?

    If I ask a female colleague out for coffee or a beer,
    for the same reason as I might invite a male colleague out for coffee or a beer,
    how do I retain my good reputation?

    And so how can men and women
    even become friends in such a climate,
    without risking legal action?

    And what happens to the REAL harassment victims
    when anyone who was ever asked out on a date
    seems to think they have a viable claim?

  • leconfidant

    I take sexual harassment very seriously,
    but if they include
    ‘being asked out for dinner or dates’
    as sexual harassment,
    it’s very hard to take the 30% figure seriously.
    Has the questionaire asked women,
    ‘Have you been asked out to dinner or dates by co-workers?’
    and then chalked that up as “harassment”,
    without the woman responding being aware of this?
    There seems to be a regular industry among professional feminists of inflating statistics to crate generous budgets for themselves.
    Then the rest of us have to walk on eggshells for being human.

    If I find someone attractive at work,
    which isn’t criminal, or harmful in any way,
    how do I progress towards romance without starting WW3?
    Do I need permission in writing?

    If I ask a female colleague out for coffee or a beer,
    for the same reason as I might invite a male colleague out for coffee or a beer,
    how do I retain my good reputation?

    And so how can men and women
    even become friends in such a climate,
    without risking legal action?

    And what happens to the REAL harassment victims
    when anyone who was ever asked out on a date
    seems to think they have a viable claim?

  • Toolonggone

    >In speech after speech, Abe has urged the country to open up to “womenomics,” encouraging some of Japan’s biggest firms — including Toyota, Panasonic and All Nippon Airways — to announce targets for boosting the number of female executives.

    No wonder his words fall on deaf ears. The vast majority of women don’t work at big corporation-J.

  • Toolonggone

    >In speech after speech, Abe has urged the country to open up to “womenomics,” encouraging some of Japan’s biggest firms — including Toyota, Panasonic and All Nippon Airways — to announce targets for boosting the number of female executives.

    No wonder his words fall on deaf ears. The vast majority of women don’t work at big corporation-J.

  • KenjiAd

    For any survey to be taken seriously, the survey has to establish that its results represent the entire group (in this case, female workers in Japan), not just those who responded.

    Online surveys are notoriously unreliable, because 1) the results would give more weight to frequent online users and 2) the results are given only by those who want their opinions counted.

    This survey has the response rate of 18%, which is not bad for online surveys. But we should be aware that the results do not include the remaining 82% who didn’t respond.

  • KenjiAd

    The problem I have with unscientific surveys like this one is that they tend to provide false legitimacy to the number claimed, in this case, 30%. This number is not scientifically legitimate. yet, it is this number, 30%, is catching the eyes. That’s the problem. It’s a sensationalism.

    I didn’t claim it was an over-estimate or under-estimate, as it depends on many other factors, such as the exact wording of the question.