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Gender Poverty in Japan
Despite its economically advanced status, Japanese society continues to struggle with lessening the gender gap for women. Gender poverty in Japan has become a major concern. Experts predict poverty rates for elderly women will double or triple in the next 40 years. Governmental leadership is well aware of the need to enact policies to address issues of poverty. However, it has been slow to implement changes.

5 Facts About Gender Poverty in Japan

  1. High Employment Rates, Low Wages: Overall, female employment has risen to 71% in recent years. However, Japanese mothers work in part-time jobs that cap out at relatively low salaries compared to full-time careers. Japanese women in the workforce also earn nearly 30% less than men.
  2. Higher Expectations of Unpaid Work: On average, women in Japan participate in 224 minutes of unpaid work per day while their male counterparts only participate in 41 minutes. This amount of unpaid work time for men is the lowest among countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
  3. Child Custody Falls on Women: In cases of divorce, many primarily expect women to take custody of their children. Taking a break from the workforce or maintaining long-term, low-paying part-time work makes it difficult for women in Japan to access higher-paying jobs in addition to providing childcare that Japanese people typically do not expect of men.
  4. High Rates of Poverty for Single-Parent Families: The rate of poverty for single-parent families is an alarming 56% which is the highest among OECD countries. COVID-19 has presented additional challenges as a majority of job cuts in the early stages of the pandemic were part-time jobs predominantly employing women, including single mothers.
  5. Lack of Access to Leadership Positions: Women hold only 15% of senior and leadership positions in Japan, of which their salaries are half of those of their male counterparts. Additionally, Japan has a mere 10% female representation in its parliament. The country also has not had a female head of state for 50 years.

Addressing Gender Poverty in Japan

The government under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attempted to address gender poverty in Japan under an economic plan called Womenomics. During his tenure, overall employment rates for women rose. Additionally, Abe enacted a plan to increase female leadership positions to 30% by 2020. Abe did not achieve this goal but it is still in place under new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Abe also enacted generous maternity and paternity leave reforms along with access to free early education and childcare for toddlers. Only 6% of Japanese men take advantage of paternity leave, citing workplace stigma for not doing so. Before leaving office due to health reasons, Abe enacted a wide-ranging five-year plan. He implemented this plan to address gender inequality and it has continued under his successor.

In recent years, there have been some important victories for women’s rights in Japan. In addition, there are new social movements related to the #MeToo movement. Journalist Ito Shiori won a landmark rape case against a television reporter with close ties to Abe, bringing more attention to gender-based violence and discrimination in the country.

The Japanese #MeToo movement gained more traction in 2019 when actress Yumi Ishikawa took to social media to question why her part-time job at a funeral home required her to wear high heels. This set off the #KuToo social movement which is a play on words for “shoes” and “pain” in Japanese. Although the movement has experienced some backlash from men and women in Japan, it raises important societal questions about rigid gender norms in the country and has broadened public debate about gender inequality.

Conclusion

Some are implementing efforts to address gender poverty in Japan. It is a positive sign that significantly higher numbers of women are now experiencing representation in the workforce. Moreover, a public discussion is occurring to challenge traditional gender roles and expectations.

– Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in JapanJapan is a sovereign island nation located on the eastern coast of Asia and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk to the East China Sea. Its household income per capita in 2017 was $1.7 billion, and Japan ranks the top three world’s largest economy, only behind U.S. and China. In 2016, its GDP reached $4.94 trillion.

Japan has outstanding technology achievements, a comprehensive social system and a very advanced transportation system that included bullet trains 51 years ago. Even though the overall economic condition of Japan is very mature, there are severe poverty issues behind these numbers. Here are top 10 facts about poverty in Japan.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Japan

  1. The Japanese economy decreased sharply since 2012. While the world GDP grew from $74.89 trillion to $74.1 trillion from 2012 to 2014, Japanese GDP shrank from $6.203 trillion $4.85 trillion in 2015.
  2. Japan sets disposable income below $14,424 as the poverty level. In 2013, there was 12 percent of the national population under the poverty level.
  3. In 2010, there was 32 percent of females who are 23 to 64 years old in poverty, and the rate of males was 25 percent. Since the GDP growth was -0.115 percent in 2011 and later it has been recovering in a very slow path, the poverty condition is consistent.
  4. The average wages of Japan in 2016 was around $39,113. This number was far less than the average U.S. wage, which was about $60,154. More importantly, while constant prices increased 1.2 percent from 2015 to 2016, its average wage only increased 0.7 percent. The wage growth rate makes Japanese people barely able to pursue higher standards of life.
  5. At least one in every six children struggle with poverty problems, issues that often inhibit them from accessing higher levels of education. To solve this problem, Japan sets the compulsory education system until the age of 15. In 2013, the Japanese government passed the law to increase the number of social workers in school and increased free, after-school tutors.
  6. The aging population is one of the most severe issues in Japan. In 2016, the Japanese population was around 127 million; however, in the next five decades, the population is likely to shrink by about one-third, and the population of over-64-year-olds may increase from 25 to 38 percent. This dilemma largely decreases Japanese labor force.
  7. The Japanese government announced in 2009 that there were around 16,000 homeless people on the streets. Around 35 percent of this population was about 60 years old, but the number has been dropping since April 2012. For example, the number dropped around 12 percent from 2011 to 2012 due to the support of health and welfare ministry.
  8. The average house price in greater Tokyo increased more than 12 percent from 2014 to 2015; however, the price-to-income ratio in 2016 was 11 percent. This is the first time the ratio has exceeded 10 percent since the 1990 bubble economy. The higher house price puts more people in jeopardy and as a result, more people become homeless.
  9. There is a large income gap in Japan, especially under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policies. For example, people who live in Tokyo are gaining benefits an their average taxable income raised near 7 percent through fiscal 2016. However, the income of people who live in Kagawa dropped during the same period.
  10. In Japan, more than 99 percent of businesses are small and middle-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs are influential supporters of the Japanese economy. Based on a report in the Economist Intelligence Unit, though, SMEs have been in decline since the 1990 bubble economy, and the decline continued through the 2008 economic crisis as many of them are reliant upon the domestic economy.

The Japanese government currently works to set new policies to promote economic development, and strives to effectively solve issues such as the ones in the top 10 facts about poverty in Japan. 

 – Judy Lu
Photo: Flickr

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YOKOHAMA, Japan – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan will make a large aid investment in Africa because the continent will be a growth engine in the coming years and will be at the leading edge of economic expansion. He also advocated for Japan to make a commitment to the continent in a mutually beneficial way.

Abe made his remarks at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Yokohama in early June. He opened the conference with a $14 billion (1.3 trillion yen) pledge for aid to help Africa. The investment is part of a larger investment of 3.2 trillion yen from Japan’s private and public sectors over the next five years. Abe told a press conference that this is a prime time for Japan to invest in Africa.

The investment is expected to support trade, infrastructure and private sector development, agriculture, agro-processing and health.

“Africa will be a growth center over the next couple of decades until the middle of this century,” Abe said. “Now is the time for us to invest in Africa.”

Abe said Japan would focus on industrialization in Africa to “generate employment and growth.”

Japan has been a long time investor in Africa, but it recently fell behind China, which has taken an aggressive approach to investment on the continent. Critics have charged that China’s investment is focused on a so-called resources grab and has not focused enough on improving human rights.

Officials in Japan stress that the country’s relationship with Africa should be a business partnership, not just a simple donor relationship. Abe has pledged to triple the value of infrastructure exports from Japan, which could be a good fit with Africa’s need for infrastructure such as roads, rails, ports and a stable power grid.

– Liza Casabona

Source: United Nations’ Development Programme, Economic Times
Photo: Rendezvous