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Women in Japan continue to face a wide range of difficulties in the workplace as well as in other aspects of life, according to a 1997 white paper on gender equality submitted July 1 to the Cabinet.

“Japan (compared with other countries) is still unsuccessful in allowing women opportunities to compete with men on equal terms,” the report says, pointing to the low percentage of women — especially in the public sector — participating in policy- and decision-making processes. The report was compiled by the Office of Gender Equality under the Prime Minister’s Office to examine the present situation and enhance the improvements planned in the Plan for Gender Equality 2000, drafted last December.

According to the report, if the hours spent on both paid and unpaid work are added up, 52.5 percent of the total labor in society is shouldered by women. Japanese men tend not to participate in housework regardless of the career status of their wives, the report adds, citing a survey by the Management and Coordination Agency.

At work, more than 25 percent of all women have experienced sexual harassment during the past two years, according to the report. The number of reported rapes has increased from 1,500 in 1995 to 1,567 last year, and the number of indecent assaults from 3,644 in 1995 to 4,025 in 1996.

The report also points out that the number of women aged 65 or older living alone has almost doubled in the last 10 years, to 1.751 million in 1995 from 913,000 in 1985.

On the bright side, the report says that last year the number of women who attended a four-year university outnumbered for the first time those who went to a two-year college, marking a 1.7 percent rise. The Plan for Gender Equality 2000 was designed to assess how gender equality is achieved in social systems and practices in various fields. It also set goals for building a social structure that promotes gender equality.

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