• Kyodo

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More than 60% of people in Japan think gender equality — guaranteed by the Constitution — has remained elusive in the country, despite government efforts to reduce the underrepresentation of women in politics and business, a recent Kyodo News survey showed.

The figure goes up to 70% if only female respondents among the 64% of respondents who believe gender equality in Japan is insufficient are counted, compared with 57% of male respondents.

Over 80% of all respondents said men are given preferential treatment in the realm of politics and in connection with social norms, according to the survey.

A total of 60% said married couples should be able to have separate surnames, while 38% said they are against the idea. Japan's Civil Code requires a married couple to share a surname.

Japan ranked 120th among 156 countries in the gender gap rankings in 2021, remaining in last place among major advanced economies, the World Economic Forum said in March. The body noted the low level of women's participation in the political and economic arenas.

The government set a goal in 2003 of filling around 30% of leadership positions in the country with women by 2020, but failed to meet the target, with the date pushed back to "as soon as possible within the 2020s" in a policy review late last year.

The country's continued poor performance in narrowing the gender gap was also highlighted by sexist remarks in February by former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who was forced to step down as head of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee after saying that meetings with women tend to "drag on" because they talk too much.

In the survey, conducted by mail in March and April ahead of Constitution Memorial Day on Monday, a total of 77% said they hope or rather hope for a female prime minister.

Asked about which positions should be filled more by women in a multiple-choice question, lawmakers and heads of municipalities were picked by 52% of the respondents, ministers by 48% and local assembly members by 47%.

In a question about factors that are required for women to become leaders in various fields, 59% chose eliminating a "sense of resistance by men" and 55% said promoting "support for dealing with both work and tasks" such as housekeeping, childrearing and caring for senior family members.

As for the desirable division of labor for a married couple, 45% picked a situation in which both husband and wife work, but the one with more leeway does the housekeeping or childrearing.

Only 7% chose a situation where the husband works and the wife does the housekeeping or childrearing.

Due to the Civil Code's requirement for a married couple to share a surname, conventionally the burden has largely fallen on women to change their names after marriage.

On reasons why they support separate surnames, 64% said they respect the freedom of an individual. Among those opposed to the idea, 48% cited loss of family unity.

The survey targeted 3,000 people age 18 or over, of whom 61.3% gave valid answers.

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