Gender gap still exists in Japan in pay, working conditions: OECD report

PARIS —

Increased female education participation has not yet led to gender equality in the labor market in Japan and many other countries, an OECD report says.

Women pay a high price for motherhood, with steep childcare costs, availability or access to such facilities, and taxes deterring many from working more, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in its report titled “Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now.” It says that gains in female education attainment have contributed to a worldwide increase in women’s participation in the labor force, but considerable gaps remain in working hours, conditions of employment and earnings.

In OECD countries, men earn on average 16% more than women in similar full-time jobs. At 21%, the gender gap is even higher at the top of the pay scale, suggesting the continued presence of a glass ceiling. Even though there has been progress in narrowing the gender gap in pay, especially in employment, this is not enough and much remains to be done in many countries.

“Closing the gender gap must be a central part of any strategy to create more sustainable economies and inclusive societies,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said at this week’s launch of the report at the OECD Gender Forum in Paris. “The world’s population is aging and this challenge can only be mastered if all the talent available is mobilized. Governments should make further progress in the access and quality of education for all, improve tax and benefits systems, and make childcare more affordable, in order to help women contribute more to economic growth and a fairer society.”

Looking at Japan, the OECD report said women have made great strides in education. Today, young women in Japan are more likely to have a university degree than young men: 59% of women and 52% of men aged 25-34 years, compared with 23% and 32%, respectively, for women and men aged 45-54. However, a clear gender bias in the choice of study remains: around 60% of Japanese graduates in health and education degrees were women, compared with only around 10% in computing and engineering degrees. Young women are also more likely to attend shorter university courses and/or less prestigious universities, and are less likely to enter fast-track career streams in Japanese companies. Even for younger workers in Japan, the gender pay gap is 15%, and it increases to around 40% for those over 40.

Japanese women have great difficulty to rise to the top and less than 5% of listed company board members in Japan are women, one of the lowest proportions among OECD countries, the report says. Difficulties with reconciling work and family commitments help explain the relatively poor female labor market outcomes in Japan. Social policy provides parental leave and childcare supports to help combine parenting and employment when children are very young.

But many Japanese women still withdraw from the labor force upon childbirth and often cannot resume their regular employment pattern: in the dual Japanese labor market, women often end up in relatively lowly-paid non-regular employment. The tax/benefit system provides financial incentives for dependent spouses to limit earnings and avoid paying income tax.

Also, the OECD report says that Japanese men do little to help their spouses with care commitments: they rarely take parental leave and the long working-hours culture helps explain why, of all men in the OECD, Japanese men spend the least time in unpaid housework (just 59 minutes per day).

  • 1

    kimuzukashiiiii

    Its sad but true.

    If the government wants more of the babies it keeps telling us it wants, they are gonna have to do much more to tackle this - close the gender gap, let women return to work after childbirth with the SAME chances of promotion if they want to, and get more childcare facilities to help women go back to work, if they want to. Im going to guess its almost impossible to rise to CEO in a company which is not your families own, if you have kids.

    Howeve the other issue is ... many of them do NOT want to, which is what is making it hard for the small minority who do. Many of them leave the workforce upon MARRIAGE, and sit home eating chocolate all day.

  • 0

    mikihouse

    many girls i know got married because they want to be free of hassle from working at Japanese offices. And not only employees, even doctors, dentists, health workers who can easily remain in the work force choose not to work once they got married. OECD is getting it wrong. Most Japanese ladies prefer not to work.

  • 1

    Yubaru

    many girls i know got married because they want to be free of hassle from working at Japanese offices

    But many WOMEN need the income to help support their families. Girls are young and typically immature and probably are better off at home or in school learning skills to be a more capable part of society.

    WOMEN for the most part already are.

  • 1

    alliswellinjapan

    Sad a developed country like Japan needs the OECD to state the obvious.

  • 3

    herefornow

    Japanese women have great difficulty to rise to the top and less than 5% of listed company board members in Japan are women, one of the lowest proportions among OECD countries,

    And with the LDP back in power things are certainly not going to improve. The good-old boy network is still solidly entrenched at Japan Inc.

  • -1

    The passage

    Women pay a high price for motherhood, with steep childcare costs, availability or access to such facilities, and taxes deterring many from working more,

    So the fathers don't pay anything for childcare? I don't disagree with the article, but the premise that the Mother is responsible for childcare is actually the main issue. Both parents are, and both [arents must be given the same chance to provide that care which means social changes. In soe cases I think men are happy with the status quo, so aren't exactly going to push TOO hard fo change, but at least it is improving (too slowly though).

  • 0

    Yubaru

    So the fathers don't pay anything for childcare?

    This is a question that is very difficult to answer on a forum like this. Simple answer, sure many do, and many don't. But consider this, if the woman is a single parent with one income the answer gets fuzzier because while many do pay child support, many do not, and many mother's don't go through the process necessary to get the money they deserve.

    It also has to do with the archaic custody laws that exist here where typically speaking, after a divorce, and according to the court, the ties are totally cut, meaning no joint custody, and usually the mother takes custody of the child(ren) and the father no longer has any rights, nor even sees his children EVER again.

    Hence many believing that why should one side pay for something when they have no more rights and the mothers usually let it go and tough it out on their own.

  • 0

    bajhista65

    The old Japanese custom still exist in Japan where a women will not be treated equal. Japanese men are born egoistic and will always think they are superior.

  • -2

    smithinjapan

    Didn't Japan rank 101 out of 130 countries or so in terms of women being treated equally with men, while China ranked 69 or something like that? This place can be really arse-backwards some times, and in the recent election even MORE women lost their seats and were not replaced with women.

  • 1

    Disillusioned

    Hey! It is not just gender! They should also include junior and foreign staff in this report!

  • 1

    warispeace

    Just too many gaps in Japan: gender, age, income, clothing stores, fault lines, that between the politicians' ears. Thank goodness for crowded trains.

  • 0

    Betraythetrust!

    OECD speaks on behalf of the corporate elite that wants everyone to be a consumer from birth to death. Of course equal pay is needed but forcing a large amount of people into the workplace will make salaries fall for the average worker, This has happened in the west but you will see that for the top few percent their income rises annually whether boom or bust times.

    The main problem is that a few mega rich individuals are getting richer due to the average guy working opnger hours with less pay. They want all kids in daycare, they want everyone to go to Uni, they want everyone to buy a house and car and all the latest gadgets. This is not about equality, it is about keeping the few rich and constantly generating more cash for themselves.

  • -2

    LH10

    lol! im one. i wanna get married so i don't have to work ^___^ i wanna take care of hubby. anyways, women still suffer not only in japan workforce (eg: salary) but in north america too.

  • 0

    CVHuan

    So, even as a great democracy, there is still significant inequality for women in the 21st century in Japan?!! I am disappointed. You can do better!!!!

  • 2

    Betraythetrust!

    @CVHuan; There is no great democracy in Japan or any first world nation. What you see is an image they want to portray to the masses, none of it is real.

  • 1

    JapanGal

    The world's population is not aging. It is the dirt poor countries and specifically Africa and the Middle East that produce babies like crazy but with no economic support, that is making the world a messy place.

    The incentive for women to not work here is held up by the tax system.

  • -2

    Tessa

    I've said it a million times. Japanese women are not so much oppressed, as just downright lazy. They like being the so-called weaker sex, because it absolves them of so many responsibilities. Recently I'm meeting a lot of married women who are highly educated qualified in various fields, but are refusing to go out to work and are steadfastly putting off having children as well. It has never been a surprise to me that Japanese women have the longest life expectancies in the world; obviously it's a result of their refusal to do anything remotely resembling "work" (or recently, parenthood).

  • -1

    Betraythetrust!

    Here we go again Tessa bashing "Japanese Women" not some but ALL. This is Japan not where you came from. The women here do not seem to be running around burning their bras asking to be like you and your values. What they with their time is not your business anymore than your job is to me.

    Japanese womens life expectancy is high due to the diet, more physical exercise and lack of obesity seen in many western women. Being lazy results in poor health not long life.

  • 1

    kimuzukashiiiii

    I agree with you Tessa. Nowadays so many women drop off the workers radar JUST because they get married, its ridiculous. In my circle of friends I know three young female doctors (just giving this as an example), all of whom are just dying to get married so they can stop working. They don't care about the training and education they had - they mainly did it to appease their conservative parents.

    I admit I DO see the positives in having a woman stay home to take care of the children, (or more recently "dog and possibly A child") when the children are children, but when they are in elementary school, middle school, high school, university and getting married, and the mother remains a housewife the ENTIRE time .... you gotta think that these women just don't want to work.

    As you said, recently they are not even having children, so why are they staying at home all day? What are they doing? I know women who work full time, have (and spend time with their) children, and still manage to cook and maintain a clean house, and stay involved in their childrens yochien/school projects. I do have to deduce that these women, for the most part, are very lazy.

    And Betraythetrust - I agree also NOT All Japanese woman want to be housewives, however the very heavy majority who do spoil it for everyone else. I can understand why an employer would not bother promoting/training a woman over a man, when there is a very high chance she will be leaving to be a shufu as soon as she gets hitched to Taro from HR.

  • 2

    Betraythetrust!

    @ Kimuzukasgiiiiii Tessa did'n't say they All want to be housewives but they are All lazy which is a disgusting things to say.

  • -1

    Fergi2000

    Tessa, I agree with you. 99% of these Japanese women don't want to work.

  • 1

    cleo

    It has never been a surprise to me that Japanese women have the longest life expectancies in the world; obviously it's a result of their refusal to do anything remotely resembling "work"

    It should be a surprise to you, since good health and long life come from a good diet and physical activity, both things which according to you Japanese females avoid like the plague.

  • 1

    sighclops

    talk about massive understatement LOL

  • 0

    realdoll

    Women in the US are also paid less for the same job.. but you have to be sceptical whenever articles or individuals claim victim status, like blacks and women. They don't consider that women take more "unpaid" leave than men and don't negotiate as well as men for salaries. This article doesn't mention that married Japanese women usually control their husbands money also.. how does that make them a victim?

  • -2

    Tessa

    Here we go again Tessa bashing "Japanese Women" not some but ALL.

    I don't have anything against Japanese women. I do have a problem with lazy, workshy people.

    Japanese womens life expectancy is high due to the diet, more physical exercise and lack of obesity seen in many western women.

    I think it may also have something to do with being placed in far fewer risky situations. A person who never goes farther afield than the local community centre for yoga/hula lessons is far less likely to be a victim of an accident or crime than a person who commutes to work every day.

  • 1

    cleo

    I think it may also have something to do with being placed in far fewer risky situations. A person who never goes farther afield than the local community centre for yoga/hula lessons is far less likely to be a victim of an accident or crime than a person who commutes to work every day.

    There you go again with your unfounded 'I think's. Can you produce any evidence to show that women in other countries have a higher death rate and therefore shorter lifespan on account of commuting to work every day? No, of course you can't. If that was such an important factor surely Japanese men, with their hellish commutes, would have one of the shortest lifespans on the planet. They don't.

  • -1

    Peter Payne

    This is definitely a sticky wicket. As a company owner I can tell you, having a fabulous, smart, compotent female employee is hell, because the more you rely on her awesomeness to help your business grow, the harder it is to sleep at night, knowing that she'll come to you eventually and tell you she's doing 寿退職, quitting to get married. No matter what you do, no matter what her personal dreams or goals are, this will happen. My readers in the U.S. say "Well just offer her more money and she'll stay," but it way more complex than that.

  • -2

    LH10

    LOL poor Tessa is being attacked. well, its up to the couple i think. who cares ppl! lol go out n drink beer sheesh lol

  • 1

    cleo

    Another point that struck me; Tessa claims Japanese women live longer because they don't commute; if that were true, wouldn't it be more sensible to find a way of not commuting herself and thus lengthen her own life, rather than try to shorten the lives of other people by insisting they go out to work? You want people to die young??

  • -3

    Tessa

    No matter what you do, no matter what her personal dreams or goals are, this will happen.

    I understand. I've seen this happen so many times, much to my dismay. We lost many talented and valuable workers who quit as soon as they married. What annoyed me even more is when we tried direct-hiring middle-aged housewives to fill in the gaps at work. They were so flaky and unreliable that we ended up not bothering anymore. I'm talking about stuff like taking days off for "a headache" or insisting on going home for lunch because their adult children couldn't cook for themselves (a clear failure of motherhood there!) They tended to quit for the most specious of reasons, and it became obvious to me that for them, work was just a kind of hobby that they could pick up or drop whenever they felt like it.

    Tessa claims Japanese women live longer because they don't commute; if that were true, wouldn't it be more sensible to find a way of not commuting herself and thus lengthen her own life, rather than try to shorten the lives of other people by insisting they go out to work?

    Are you serious? How about if every single adult in Japan decided to do just that? Yes, including the male workforce. Talk about a double standard!

    I guess I forgot to mention the Japanese male suicide thingie. Surely that factors into it too.

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