Women’s Empowerment and Its Economic Impact

Part 2: Japan Currently at the Lowest Level among Industrialized Nations

Consulting Fellow, RIETI

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Japan's female labor force participation rate to the total working-age population rose from 53.5% in 1968 to 56.8% in 2000 and 64.6% in 2015. The rate of increase has accelerated in recent years, rising by 3.9% from 2000 to 2012, and a further 3.9% over the three-year period from 2012.

The female labor force participation rate draws an "M-shaped curve," dropping in the age group when women typically marry and start a family, and rising again after they finish child rearing. The rate of fall in the middle of the "M-shaped curve" is gradually shrinking. According to the White Paper on Gender Equality 2013, the labor force participation rate of women aged 30-34 increased from 43.9% in 1975 to 68.6% in 2012.

At the same time, the National Fertility Survey by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research shows that the ratio of women who have kept working after the birth of the first child remained steady at 39% in the 1985-1989 period and 38% in the 2005-2009 period. The increase in the female labor force participation rate and the flattening of the M-shaped curve may be the result of a recent trend in which women either are getting married later or not at all.

According to data by the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training (JILPT), the ratio of women in managerial positions in 2013 was 11.2% for Japan, which was lower than that of western nations such as the United States (43.4%) and France (36.1%), and other Asian countries such as the Philippines (47.1%) and Singapore (33.7%). OECD's statistics in 2012 show that women's wages in Japan were 26.5% lower than those of men. The gender disparity was greater than that of western nations such as Denmark (7.0%), the United States (19.1%), and France (13.7%).

Almost all OECD nations, including Japan, have improved their Gender Gap Index (GGI: benchmarking national gender gaps on economics, education, health and political criteria), which indicates the scale of gender-based disparities. In 2015, Japan ranked 101st out of 145 countries in the GGI ranking. Among industrialized nations, the result puts Japan in a low-performing group along with South Korea.

Of the four criteria, Japan scored poorly particularly in the political (e.g., females with seats in parliament, females at ministerial level, etc.) and economic (e.g., income, female managers, etc.) criteria. Yet, considering the recent increase in the female labor force participation rate, improvement in these sub-indices are expected.

>> Original text in Japanese

* Translated by RIETI.

August 23, 2016 Nihon Keizai Shimbun

September 29, 2016

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