The fiscal 2007 government white paper on gender equality shows a low level of advancement by Japanese women in politics, government and business compared with other countries. The situation won’t change unless political, business and labor leaders get serious about the issue.

Japan ranks 42nd among 75 countries on the gender empowerment index, a measure of women’s participation and decision-making authority in political and economic activities. It ranks 79th among 115 countries on the gender equality gap index.

In a comparison with 11 other countries Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, Britain, the United States, Australia, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia, women account for 9.4 percent of Japan’s national parliament membership, second from the bottom after the 8.9 percent for Malaysia. The best is Sweden’s 47.3 percent. In 2005, only 1.8 percent of high-ranking national public servants in Japan the lowest percentage in the group were women. Singapore women were at the top with 62 percent, while in Sweden, 42 percent were women.

In Japan, women occupy 10.1 percent of managerial positions in business, higher than France’s 7.2 percent and South Korea’s 7.8 percent but much lower than America’s 42.5 percent the highest level.

Japanese women workers’ average wage, as a percentage of men’s, is 66.8 percent higher than South Korea’s 62.6 percent and Malaysia’s 63 percent but lower than America’s 81 percent and Britain’s 82.6 percent. Figures for Australia, France, Norway and Sweden are higher than for Britain. Philippine women have the slimmest pay gap, with 96.6 percent.

In Japan, men contribute to only 12.5 percent of total housework and child rearing hours (South Korea, 12.2 percent), compared with 37 percent to 40 percent in the U.S., Sweden, Australia and Norway. Long working hours are apparently responsible for Japan’s ranking. Seven of the other 11 countries have ministries for gender equality. At the very least, Japan should consider setting concrete numerical targets for gender equality.

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