White Paper on Gender Equality 2000

  1. Changes in lifestyle

    Increasingly late age for marriage
    An analysis of changes in the average age for a first marriage show that it was 24.7 for the wife and 27.0 for the husband in 1975. In 1998, this had risen to 26.7 for the wife and 28.6 for the husband. The proportion of women who are not married in the late 20s age group has risen from 20.9% in 1975 to 48.0% in 1995 with about half the women in the age group unmarried. In 1975, the proportion of those in their early 30s who were unmarried was 7.7% and the figure was 5.3% for those in the late 30s age group. However, in 1995, 19.7% of women in their early 30s and 10.0% of those in their late 30s were unmarried showing an increase in the proportion of those who are not married in the 30s age group as well.

    Responsibilities for housework and childcare make women feel that marriage is a burden
    Those who felt that marriage is a burden were asked what aspect of marriage they considered a burden. A high proportion of women, nearly 40%, responded the "burden of housework" and the "burden involved in the difficulty of harmonizing work and home." This was in contrast to the most popular response for men, which was the "financial burden" (Figure 7). The feeling of women that marriage is a burden is probably due to the fact that there has been no change in women's responsibilities for household duties despite the increase in women with a profession.

    Figure 7 Details of the burden of marriage


    There were multiple answers from persons who said they experience (are experiencing) the burden of marriage.


    Public Opinion Survey on the Declining Birth Rate, Public Relations Office, Prime Minister's Office (1999)

  2. Gender equality in the area of work

    Upward time series shift in Japan's M-shaped curve
    Looking at changes in the labor force participation rate of women by age group, the M-shaped curve showing different participation rates from men remains, but here has been an overall upward time series shift (Figure 8).

    Figure 8 Labor force participation rate of women by age group in Japan


    Labor Force Survey, Statistics Bureau, Management and Coordination Agency

    Labor force participation rate by age differs significantly between unmarried and married women
    The labor force participation rate of women by age group differs significantly for unmarried and married women. When a graph is drawn for unmarried women, it reveals a contrasting U-shaped curve while a graph for married women presents a pyramid-shaped curve in the peak years between 45-49 (Figure 9). The disparity in labor force participation rates for unmarried and married women is large during the 20s and 30s, which are the age groups in which child care is concentrated.

    Figure 9 Labor force participation rate of women by age group (Married and unmarried)


    Labor Force Survey, Statistics Bureau, Management and Coordination Agency

    Increasing desire to continue working after having children
    Although the environment for working women is difficult with heavy domestic burdens that include housework, child care and family care, there have been changes in the attitude towards work.
    Looking at changes in attitudes towards women and work, the attitudes that "women should not have a job" and "women should work until they are married" have declined. The proportion of those who think that "women should stop work after having children and return to work when the children have grown up" (the returning to work pattern) remains high and the idea that " women can continue working even after having children" (the continuing to work pattern) has become more popular in recent years (Figure 10).

    Figure 10 Attitudes toward women and work


    Public Opinion Survey on Women (1972 and 1984), Public Opinion Survey on Gender Equality (1995), Public Relations Office, Prime Minister's Office.

    Women's employment and the declining birth rate
    Despite the conception that birth rates tend to be low in countries where women continue to work, an analysis of the relationship between labor force participation rates by women in the 25 - 34 age group, where the burden of child care is significant, and the total birth rate shows that countries with high rates of female labor force participation have relatively high total birth rates (Figure 11). In countries such as Sweden which have high labor force participation rates and birth rates compared to Japan, women's employment has not led to a lower birth rate. This is thought to be due to an environment which makes it easy for women to combine work and child care, and extensive child care leave systems that include men and adequate child care services.

    Figure 11 Proportion of women in the workforce and total birth rates (international comparison)


    For proportion of workforce: Yearbook of Labour Statistics 1999, ILO.
    For total birth rates: Demographic Yearbook 1997, UN.
    For Japan: Vital Statistics, Ministry of Health and Welfare.

    The typical female employee
    There is a trend for the average length of continuous service by female employees to increase, and the average number of years served continuously was 8.2 and the average age of female employees was 37.2 in 1998. Those with more than 10 years average length of continuous service have now reached around 30% of all women (Figure 12).

    Figure 12 Distribution of female employees by length of continuous service


    Figures for 1975 include those for public offices. Figures after 1985 include only private offices.


    Basic Survey on Wage Structure, Ministry of Labour.

    Job rank and years of continuous service affect the disparity between pay for men and women
    Of the causes of disparities between the pay of men and women, job rank (department heads, section chiefs, subsection chiefs and unranked employees) and number of years of continuous service are thought to have an especially significant impact (Figure 13). A time series analysis shows that the level of influence of continuous service is decreasing with women's lengthening terms of service, but there has been little change in terms of job rank.

    Figure 13 Causes of disparities between the pay of men and women


    For "Hours of work," the disparity was recalculated from hourly pay. For each of the other items, the extent of the shrinking of the disparity was calculated with average contractual wages of women and men, assuming that distribution of employees is the same for men and women.
    Moreover, in principle, calculations were performed for all employees (excluding part-time employees) of private enterprises employing 10 or more personnel. However, adjustments for industry did not include "Electricity, gas, heat supply and water;" and "Transport and communication." In addition, adjustments for job rank were calculated for department heads, section chiefs, subsection chiefs and unranked employees of enterprises employing 100 or more personnel. (This accounts for about 90% of all employees of enterprises employing 100 or more personnel.) Therefore, care is necessary when comparing the results of the survey regarding industry and job rank with survey results due to other causes.


    Calculated by Office for Gender Equality, Prime Minister's Office, based on data from Basic Survey on Wage Structure, Ministry of Labour.

    Figure 14 Proportion of employees by age and by form of employment


    "Age total" includes ages 15-19 and 60 and above.


    Employment Status Survey, Statistics Bureau, Management and Coordination Agency (1997).

    Relatively small disparity between male and female salaries in the information-related area
    The disparity between male and female wages for system engineers and programmers in information-related occupations is relatively small compared to occupations overall on an analysis of the 20s and 30s age group, which is the age group that accounts for the majority of employees in the field (Figure 15).

    Figure 15 Disparity between male and female contractual wages


    Basic Survey on Wage Structure, Ministry of Labour (1998).

    Homework provides women with employment opportunities
    A new form of work known as home work is expected to provide women with employment opportunities as it allows time spent and the emotional burdens of commuting to be reduced and facilitates a flexible form of working where working hours can be chosen voluntarily. Over three quarters of home workers (those teleworkers who perform contract work at home) are women and half of their number comprise women who have children. In addition, an analysis of the female home workers by age group shows that the 30s age group accounts for 71.6%. Further, an analysis of educational background shows that many women with advanced educational backgrounds are doing such work as the proportion of women who have graduated from university or above in the general female working population is 9.9% while the figure among home workers is 41.9%.

    Women's participation in local policy decision-making processes
    Despite the significant contributions of women in agriculture, forestry and fishing villages to maintaining and vitalizing daily life and local communities, their participation in local policy decision-making processes is inadequate. For example, the proportion of female agricultural committee members and regular members and executives of agricultural cooperatives and coastal fisheries cooperatives is low compared to the proportion of women in the working population. However, most prefectures have formulated indicators and objectives for women's participation in groups involved in local policy decision-making processes and are promoting measures to achieve these objectives.

  3. Participation by men and women in the home and the community

    The belief in the division of labor where mainly the wife does housework and child care
    An analysis of perceptions about the domestic division of labor between men and women shows that in around 20% of cases the husband and wife share housework. In 70-80% of cases, the wife does the housework ("wife does everything" and "mainly wife, husband helps"). In terms of child care, in around 40% of cases "husband and wife share" while in 50-60% of cases the wife does the housework. For both housework and child care, those cases in which the husband does the housework ("the husband does everything" and "mainly husband, wife helps") are extremely low. The perceptions of men vary according to the form of employment that their wife is in. Where a wife works full time, the proportion of those responding that "the husband and wife share" rises.

    Figure 16 Perceptions of participation by men and women in the home and the community


    Public Opinion Survey on the Declining Birth Rate, Public Relations Office, Prime Minister's Office (1999).

    Wives bear the burden of housework and child care
    A specific analysis of husbands' involvement in house work and child care shows that between one third and two thirds of husbands do barely any housework in any of the categories ("I never do housework," "I do housework once or twice a month") (Figure 17). Looking at the levels for "I do a housework every day or every time" and "I do housework three or four times a week" shows that around 20% of husbands do such housework as taking out the garbage, but the proportion of for other categories is around 10%. In terms of child care, half of husbands get involved in such activities as "Playing with my children" or "Giving my children a bath," but around half have no involvement in "Feeding my children," "Putting my children to bed," "Changing my children's diapers" and "Comforting my children when they are crying."

    Figure 17 Husbands' involvement in house work and child care


    Totals for husbands' involvement in child care are for men under 50


    2nd National Survey on Household Trends, National Institute of Population Research and Social Security Research (1998).

  4. Lives of senior citizens

    The aging society
    According to the Population Estimates from the Statistics Bureau at the Management and Coordination Agency, the total population of Japan was 126.69 million as of 1 October 1999 of which the senior citizen population (the population aged 65 and over) was 21.19 million. This means that the senior citizen population represents 16.7% of the total population (the aging rate).
    12.37 million of the senior citizen population are women and 8.82 million are men producing a ratio of women to men of 100 women for 71.3 men. The issue of how to spend a long period of old age will be a more important one for women than for men.

    Women bear the burden of care in the home
    An analysis of the family relationship of the main carers of the aged bedridden shows that 86.1% of main carers are people who live with the person needing care. In a breakdown of this figure, as age increases, the proportion of spouses falls and the proportion of children or spouses of children rises. In addition, it is notable that for those aged 75 and over, the proportion of spouses of children who are the main carers is higher than children.
    Further, the proportion of women is high among main carers (residing in the same house) for the aged bedridden regardless of family relationship. In particular, 99.7% of main carers are women where the carer is the spouse of a child (Table 18).

    Figure 18 Proportional makeup of main carers of the bedridden(residing in same home)by relationship


    Basic Survey of Living Condition of the People on Health and Welfare, Ministry of Health and Welfare, 1998.