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Women have gained more responsibility — along with tasks — in the workplace, but now are also expected to devote more time to housework, according to a 1998 white paper on gender equality submitted to the Cabinet Friday.

Single working women usually spend less than an hour on housework each day, but the time increases to more than four hours once they get married, or even up to seven hours if they are unemployed, the report says. Men on the other hand spend only about 20 minutes on household chores, regardless of their marital status.

“The fixed stereotype of gender roles forces women to make a major change in their lifestyle after marriage, which is causing women to get married later,” said Haniwa Natori, director of the Office of Gender Equality. “This (stereotype) is a challenge for our society in general.”

According to the report, a majority of people surveyed said they believe women’s views are not reflected in either national or local policy decision-making processes. More people felt the situation is even worse at the national level.

Natori pointed out that Japan’s male-centered organizational system has added more burden on women at home, which has hindered them from actively taking part in policy decision-making processes.

Although many groups, such as commercial bodies and parent and teachers associations, are headed by men, the report reveals that nearly 60 percent of those chairing these groups under age 40 are women. Natori said this indicates an increase in active female participation in society in the future.

For the first time, the report compares on a prefectural basis the rates of women in the labor force prior to and following the period when they generally bear and raise children.

Japan and South Korea show two of the sharpest drops in female workforce participation during child-rearing years, Natori said. As a result, Kochi and Fukuoka, which supply more baby sitters and nursing facilities than other prefectures, scored high in the report for their effective support for working mothers.

As for violence against women, the number of reported rapes increased from 1,567 in 1996 to 1,755 last year, and the number of indecent assaults grew from 4,025 to 4,398. Nearly half of the reported rapes took place in residential areas, according to the report.

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