National / Social Issues

Gender equality goal for 2020 elusive: white paper

by Tomoko Otake

Staff Writer

The government’s goal of boosting the ratio of women in leadership positions in every field to 30 percent by 2020 is looking increasingly unrealistic, the 2015 White Paper on Gender Equality released Friday shows.

The white paper, compiled by the Cabinet Office and approved by the Cabinet the same day, reveals that the percentage of female leaders in various fields — defined as lawmakers, highly skilled professionals or corporate department heads and higher — remains much lower than the 30 percent target.

Japan has long been among the world’s worst performers in terms of gender equality, ranking 104th out of 142 countries covered by the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index in 2014.

Experts attribute the trend to a mix of factors such as the long working hours among men, the lack of role models for female leaders and spousal tax deductions that discourage many married women from earning more.

Of particular note is the ratio of female department chiefs at ministries, which stood at 3.3 percent as of 2014. The ratios of female managers holding department chief or higher positions at private-sector companies hovered at 8.3 percent, while those of prosecutors, judges and lawyers stood at 21.4 percent, 18.7 percent and 18.1 percent, respectively.

This year’s white paper provided a prefecture-by-prefecture analysis of women’s participation in society.

Through a questionnaire covering 500 people from each of the nation’s 47 prefectures, the paper identified prefectures that were bound more strongly than others by the traditional “men at work, women at home” mindset and at the same time had a higher ratio of men working more than 60 hours a week.

Nara, for example, was found to have the highest percentage of people bound by the traditional work-family model, at 50.4 percent, compared with the national average of 44.2 percent. The western Japan prefecture also ranked fourth in the nation in ratio of men working more than 60 hours, at 17.5 percent, against the national average of 15.8 percent. Nara also had the lowest percentage of working women in Japan, at 56.8 percent, against the national average of 63.1 percent.

In contrast, Toyama emerged as among the most progressive prefectures in gender equality, with the lowest percentage of people sticking to the traditional work-family model, at 37.2 percent. In Toyama, only 13.1 percent of men worked more than 60 hours, ranking eighth in the nation, and 70 percent of women had jobs, ranking fourth.