Japan's position in the World Economic Forum's global gender equality ranking receded from 111th in 2016 to 114th this year. Instead of shaking off the disreputable honor of being called an underdeveloped country in terms of women's role in society, we seem to be sinking even further. Japan is indeed making efforts; A law has been established to promote more active roles for women in government and businesses, and a company that previously had no women in management positions suddenly appointed more than 10 female employees as section chiefs. Still, Japan is not catching up with other countries where changes are taking place much faster.

Why is gender equality not making more rapid progress in Japan?

The labor minister of Sweden, which is deemed a leader in gender equality, once told me that the momentum for women taking up more active roles in the country built up in the 1970s after the abolition in 1972 of a system that jointly taxed married couples and introduction of individual-based taxation. The influence of tax reform is huge. In Japan, meanwhile, abolition of the spousal deduction scheme in income taxation has long been discussed but never implemented.