Global Issues: Japan/Gender Issues

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Introduction[edit]

Japan achieved a high economic growth after the World War II, the country has changed demographically and advanced socioeconomically [0]. Due to this growth Japan is facing various social issues which need improvements. Some of these issues are: environmental protection, consumer rights, welfare, aging population, low birth rate [1]. One other important issue is creating a gender-equal society. Especially as their population is aging and the birth rate is going down, the need for women with equal rights becomes more important as women are more needed than ever before.


Economical numbers[edit]

Some numbers to show the need for improvement of a gender-equal society.

The birthrate in Japan is 7.64 births per 1000 population (est. 2009). Compared with countries around the world Japan is at number 223 of in total 224, only China is worse [2].

The total fertility rate at this moment is 1.21 children born per woman (2009 est). Compared with countries around the world Japan is at number 218 of in total 224 [3]. This number tells something about the potential growth of the population of a country as this figure is calculated per woman and it refers to the births every woman on average gets. When this number is above two it means that the population is growing, as the number two is needed to replace every couple. The figure for Japan is already for years below, meaning that the size population is decreasing and the age of the population is getting older. The life expectancy at birth is very high in Japan, the number is 82.12 years, male 78.8 years and female 85.62 years (est 2009) [4]. Compared with other countries around the world Japan is at number 3 of in total 224, quite the opposite in comparison with birthrate and total fertility rate.

The sex rate of the total population is 0.95 male/female (est. 2009) in Japan, meaning that in total there are more women than men in Japan [5]. Especially at older age there are more women than men, which is also the effect of the life expectancy that is higher for women than for men.


Ranking of Japan on gender-equal[edit]

From above mentioned numbers it can be concluded that Japan’s population is ageing fast and shrinking. Next to these economical numbers there are also rankings about the status if a country is gender-equal. Japan ranked 91st out of 128 countries in the World Economic Forum’s annuals ranking of gender-equal countries [6]. This is the lowest ranking among all high income countries except for South Korea and five Middle Eastern countries. Japan scores high at education and health but it scores low at the gender income gap, the lack of women in legislation, management, parliament and ministerial positions [7].

Japan ranked last out of all nations in the study performed by Grant Thornton International about a study into the gender gap between men and women in executive positions [8]. In general Asian companies have more women working in executive functions but Japan is the exception in Asia. This exception seems to be the result of the “cultural perception about women in business and women’s role in the family as compared with others parts of Asia” [9].


The Most Beautiful Women in the World in the Workforce[edit]

As the population is ageing and the growth is declining there is a change in the Japanese labor market. Due to the declining growth a shortage of young labor occurs. Next to this the consumer boom and increasing demand for higher education for children influenced employment of women [10].

The female workers are treated far from equal in comparison with men in the workforce: - Average Japanese women working full time earn 60% less than the average Japanese man working full time does [11]; - About 90% of all the part-time workers are females [12]; - Fewer than 10% of professional managers are women [13]; - 10.7% of senior corporate and political positions are held by women [14].

Last few years signs of improvements can be seen for younger female students seeking employment. But, while one succeeds to find employment, many harsh conditions still exists for female employees. There is still a large gap in salary and promotion between men and women, but also the denial of maternity and menstrual leave is still an issue. On top of this, the reality for women is often no matter how hard they strive for recognition, they are not given the chance to exhibit their abilities. This is also met with sexual harassment and of being forced into leaving or being moved around. Many female students must face these harsh discriminatory realities. Unfortunately it seems that the financial crisis has a negative impact on the gender-equal approach. It’s much harder in general, both male and female, to get a job but it’s even harder for a woman as a man gets priority in hiring of better jobs. According to various people I spoke in Japan: “A man in general has a better prospect and better promotion opportunities. Women in general get a lower job, even if they finished the same education as man, but they also have lower promotion opportunities”.

Education[edit]

Education is very well in Japan and it is easy accessible for both men and women. “While in 1950 only one out of every three girls and one out of every two boys received a high school education, since the mid 1970s almost all Japanese children have attended High school, and two out of five high school graduates have gone on to higher education” [15].

Next to the education, the expected roles of Japanese women in life are changing. Japan is slightly adapting the Western roles more and more as women receive a higher education but also they have more access to alternative information through the internet. However, the traditional values and norms of family-centered care giving are still deeply integrated in the Japanese society.

During my stay in Japan we attended various courses in different Universities. In one class there was a group setting in two circles, all the men were sitting on the first row and all the women on the second row. Was this a coincidence or a cultural aspect?


Culture[edit]

Modern Japanese women often experience an internal conflict between their traditional roles and their current role as their current role need a change of the Japanese culture. They feel guilty and think of themselves as selfish while failing their duty as wife and mother while chasing a good job opportunity in the workforce [16].

The Japanese culture is very traditional and can still be seen on the street but also in a business environment. There is a lot of respect for older people and people with a higher rank. Also conforming to group norms and putting needs of others ahead of self are highly valued [17]. With respect to gender issues: Japanese women are trained by their mothers from early age to “make the best of whatever life gives” [18], and this is what they do. Japanese women do not complain, they just make the best out of life.

The patriarchal family system in Japan demands that women should obey men, that the young women should obey the old, and that daughters-in-law should obey mothers-in-law [19]. Men on the other hand are pampered by their mothers and they expect the same treatment from their wives [20]. Next to this long working hours are expected from the companies people work for, mainly men with full time jobs. This makes it hard for men to help out at home as they are almost never home, leaving the childcare and housekeeping to their wife.


Improvements of the workforce[edit]

There are improvement on three fronts in order to make it easier for women to have a family but also to have a job. The three are: financial incentives, non financial support measures and public views [21]. The financial incentives are improved child care allowances, preferential tax and pension treatment for households with children [22].

The non financial support measures are an improved childcare system and the extension of the childcare leave. The childcare leave is paid for 12-18 months in Japan [23]. This is really an improvement and it will help a growth of the birthrate but also make it easier for women to work and have a family. Also the ability to work part-time is an improvement. However, for the working part-time some issues need to be solved. While working reduced hours, an employee is not allowed to write overtime. Working part-time means that any overtime worked is unpaid, effectively penalizing workers who are anxious not to cause any trouble for their co-workers [23]. The public views focuses on public views on having children. More positive aspects should be communicated in order improve the culture.


Quiz[edit]

1. Which country has the lowest birth rate?

a) Japan

b) China

c) The United States of America

d) None of the above mentioned countries


2. How much does an average woman working full time earn in comparison with the salary of an average male?

a) A woman earns the same salary as an average man

b) A woman earns 40% of the salary of an average man

c) A woman earns 60% of the salary of an average man

d) A woman earns 90% of the salary of an average man


3. Which improvements on the workforce are realized the last few years?

a) Improved childcare allowances

b) Ability to work part time

c) Communication of positive aspects of having children

d) All of the above mentioned


4. Why is it needed more than ever that women obtain equal rights in Japan?


5. What does the patriarchal family system in Japan mean for women?


References[edit]

0. Yumi Hashizume, R.N., M.S., (2000), 'Gender issues and Japanese family-centered caregiving for frail elderly parents or parents-in-law in modern Japan: From the sociocultural en Historical Perspectives', Public Health Nursing, page 25-31.

1. Noriko, A., Tomoko, O., (2005), 'Lesson practice and teachers's views on citizenship and gender: focusing on home economics and civics in Japan', International Journal of Consumer Studies, page 342-351.

2. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ja.html retrieved on 18jun09.

3. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ja.html retrieved on 18jun09

4. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ja.html retrieved on 18jun09.

5. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ja.html retrieved on 18jun09.

6. Japan near bottom in gender equality index, retrieved from: http://www.japannewsreview.com/society/national/20071109page_id=2934 on May 21, 2009.

7. Japan near bottom in gender equality index, retrieved from: http://www.japannewsreview.com/society/national/20071109page_id=2934 on May 21, 2009.

8. Worsley, K., (2007), 'Japan lags behind in gender equality in the workplace', retrieved from: http://www.japaneconomynews.com/2007/03/08/report-japan-lags-behind-in-gender-equality-in-the-workplace-way-behind/ on May 21, 2009.

9. Worsley, K., (2007), 'Japan lags behind in gender equality in the workplace', retrieved from: http://www.japaneconomynews.com/2007/03/08/report-japan-lags-behind-in-gender-equality-in-the-workplace-way-behind/ on May 21, 2009.

10. Yumi Hashizume, R.N., M.S., (2000), 'Gender issues and Japanese family-centered caregiving for frail elderly parents or parents-in-law in modern Japan: From the sociocultural en Historical Perspectives', Public Health Nursing, page 25-31.

11. Unknown, (2007), ‘Cloud, or silver linings?- Japan’s changing demography. (Japan’s ageing workforce)’, The Economist, page 24.

12. Worsley, K., (2007), 'Japan lags behind in gender equality in the workplace', retrieved from: http://www.japaneconomynews.com/2007/03/08/report-japan-lags-behind-in-gender-equality-in-the-workplace-way-behind/ on May 21, 2009.

13. Unknown, (2007), ‘Cloud, or silver linings?- Japan’s changing demography. (Japan’s ageing workforce)’, The Economist, page 24.

14. Worsley, K., (2007), 'Japan lags behind in gender equality in the workplace', retrieved from: http://www.japaneconomynews.com/2007/03/08/report-japan-lags-behind-in-gender-equality-in-the-workplace-way-behind/ on May 21, 2009.

15. Tanaka, K, (1995), ’Work, education, and the family. In K. Fujimura-Fanselow & A. Kameda (Eds.), Japanese women: New feminist perspectives on the past, present and future, page 295-308.

16. Yumi Hashizume, R.N., M.S., (2000), 'Gender issues and Japanese family-centered caregiving for frail elderly parents or parents-in-law in modern Japan: From the sociocultural en Historical Perspectives', Public Health Nursing, page 25-31.

17. Crump, R., Crump, B., (2007), 'Diverging Diversities: The Salience of Culture', The international journal of diversity in organisations, communities and nations, page 179-186.

18. Yumi Hashizume, R.N., M.S., (2000), 'Gender issues and Japanese family-centered caregiving for frail elderly parents or parents-in-law in modern Japan: From the sociocultural en Historical Perspectives', Public Health Nursing, page 25-31.

19. Sodei, T., (1995), ‘Care of the elderly: A woman’s issue. In K. Fujimura-Fanselow & A. Kameda (Eds.), Japanese women: New feminist perspectives on the past, present and future, page 213-228.

20. Unknown, (2007), ‘Cloud, or silver linings?- Japan’s changing demography. (Japan’s ageing workforce)’, The Economist, page 24.

21. Kitazume, T., (2006), ‘Low birthrate threatens Japan’s future. Support, job flexibility may prompt couples to have more children’, Population symposium.

22. Kitazume, T., (2006), ‘Low birthrate threatens Japan’s future. Support, job flexibility may prompt couples to have more children’, Population symposium.

23. Crump, R., Crump, B., (2007), 'Diverging Diversities: The Salience of Culture', The international journal of diversity in organisations, communities and nations, page 179-186.

24. Crump, R., Crump, B., (2007), 'Diverging Diversities: The Salience of Culture', The international journal of diversity in organisations, communities and nations, page 179-186.


Other references[edit]

- Kondo, D.K., (1985), 'Gender, self and work in Japan: Some issues in the study of self and other', Culture, medicine and psychiatry, page 319-328.

- Chan-Tiberghien, J., (2004), 'Gender and Human Rights politics in Japan: Global norms and domestic networks', Stanford University Press, page 1-11

- Chan, J., (editor), (2008), 'Human Rights and trafficking in persons', page 211-213 and page 220-241.

- Hacker, D., (2003), 'A writer’s reference', Boston, Bedford/St. Martins’s.

- ‘Gender Difference in History, Women in China and Japan’, retrieved from http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/essay-04.html on 18JUN09