Gender Equality in Japan

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Flag of Japan
Population (in Mil.) 127.56
Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB) 5,954.48
Sex Ratio (m/f) 0.95
Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m) 1.088607595
Fertility Rate 1.21
Estimated Earned Income (f/m) 0.57
Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m) 59
Women in Parliament (in %) 8.1
Human Development Index 10/187
Social Institutions and Gender Index /86
Gender Inequality Index 10/186
Gender Equity Index 107/168
Women’s Economic Opportunity Index 25/128
Global Gender Gap Index /68
More information on variables


In the past decade, the legal and social infrastructure to reverse entrenched gender inequalities in Japan have had some impact on the perception of women in the labour market.  According to research carried out by the Minister for Gender Equality in 2007, attitudes towards women working are changing. Indeed, as OECD research also show, government social policies to help parents (leave arrangements, Childcare, etc) are relatively well-developed. The high gender Wage gap between men and women reflect however the inflexible employment conditions which are too restrictive for mothers to balance work with childcare, and the low presence of women in career-track schemes. Workplaces need to give mothers more opportunities to return to regular employment.

Social Institutions

The Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) measures gender-based discrimination in social norms, practices and laws across 160 countries. The SIGI comprises country profiles, a classification of countries and a database; it serves as a research, policy and advocacy tool for the development community and policy makers.

The SIGI covers five dimensions of discriminatory social institutions, spanning major socio-economic areas that affect women’s lives: discriminatory family code, restricted physical integrity, son bias, restricted resources and assets, and restricted civil liberties. The SIGI’s variables quantify discriminatory social institutions such as unequal inheritance rights, early marriage, violence against women, and unequal land and property rights.

In the 2014 edition of the SIGI, Japan was not classified in the SIGI due to lack of full dataset. It has lower discrimination in restricted access to resources and assets and higher discrimination in restricted civil liberties. Read the full country profile and access the data here:


In 1999, the Government enacted the Basic Law for a Gender-equal Society, which lays down the basic principle related to the formation of a gender-equal society, and clarifies the respective duties of the State, local governments, and citizens. In October 2005 the first ministerial post to deal exclusively with gender equality was established - the Minister of State for Gender Equality and Social Affairs.


The labour market discriminates against women, reflected by the high gender wage gap which is twice the OECD average. Parents in Japan find it hard to combine work and family commitments. The result is a low female employment and a very low fertility rate of below 1.3 children per woman. In addition, female part-time workers accounted for 69.7% of the total part-time workers in 2005. There is a lack of women in supervisory roles (under 10%), and women are underrepresented in management track career positions (‘sougou-shoku’), where females constitute only 3.5%. Long working hours make it difficult for both parents to combine work with care commitments. In Japan, only one in five male employees works less than 40 hours, and only around one in two female employees does the same. Long working hours mean that mothers are responsible for the majority care of children, as fathers’ contributions to childcare are limited. Over two-thirds of Japanese women do not return to work after childbirth.


In 2005, the advancement rate in high schools (excluding those students advancing to correspondence courses in upper secondary schools) stood at 96.8% for girls (96.1% for boys), and the rate for girls has always been higher than that for boys since 1969. The percentage of women advancing into higher education institutions (universities, junior colleges, specialized training colleges) is also on increase: 76.2% (74.6% for men) in 2005. In terms of the university (undergraduate) advancement rate, a gap between men and women still exists: 36.8% for women and 51.3% for men, although the percentage of women in higher education institutions, including junior and specialized training colleges, exceeds that of men.

In 2005, the subjects where women occupy the majority were home economics (91.8%), arts (69.3%), humanities (67%) and education (60.9%). At the same time, the proportion of women is increasing in subjects where the proportion of women used to be low, for instance social sciences (31.2%), agriculture (40.5%), science (25.5%) and engineering (10.5%).

Political Empowerment

Women in Japan were given the right to vote in 1946. The Second Basic Plan for Gender Equality adopted in December 2005 set as its goal ‘raising the percentage of women in leadership positions in all fields to at least around 30% of the total by 2020’. Currently, only 9.4 percent of parliamentary seats in Japan are occupied by women, and the country is ranked 131st by the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) out of 189 countries surveyed.


  • OECD, Babies and Bosses. Country Highlights - Japan (2007)
  • CEDAW, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Sixth periodic report of States parties. Japan (2008)
  • Cabinet for Gender Equality, Gender equality in Japan (2007)

The Women, Business and the Law

Where are laws equal for men and women? 

The Women, Business and the Law report presents indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees. Several of these indicators draw on the Gender Law Library, a collection of over 2,000 legal provisions impacting women's economic status. This report does not seek to judge or rank countries, but to provide information to inform discussions about women’s economic rights. Women, Business and the Law provides data covering 6 areas: accessing institutions,using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. Read more about the methodology.

For detailed information on Japan, please visit the Women, Business and
the Law Japan


The FAO Gender and Landrights Database

The FAO Gender and Landrights Database contains country level information on social, economic, political and cultural issues related to the gender
FAO logo.jpg
inequalities embedded in those rights. Disparity on land access

is one of the major causes for social and gender in rural areas, and it jeopardizes, as a consequence, rural food security as well as the wellbeing of individuals and families.

Six categories

The Database offers information on the 6 following Categories:

  • National legal frame
  • International treaties and conventions
  • Customary law
  • Land tenure and related Institutions
  • Civil society organizations<span id="fck_dom_range_temp_1314867987760_59" />
  • Selected Land Related Statistics

For detailed information information on Japan, please visit the report on in the FAO Gender and Landrights Database.

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