The Present Status of Women and Measures (White Paper on Women, abridged)(1996)

Advances Made by Japanese Women During the 50 Years Since the End of the War

The Present Status of Women and Measures

Fifth Report on the Implementation of the New National Plan of Action Toward the Year 2000

26 February 1996

Office for Gender Equality
Prime Minister's Office

Haniwa Natori

Atsuko Muraki
Planning Director

Midori Nakamura
Deputy Counsellor

Tel(03)3581-2361 ext 2464
Direct line:(03) 3581-2868

  1. The Government, represented by the Headquaters for Gender Equality (whose President is the Prime Minister), has formulated the New National Plan of Action Toward the Year 2000, a plan aimed at the formation of a society in which women and men participate on an equal footing. The plan is being actively promoted by the Government. With the cooperation of the various ministries and agencies, whose heads are members of the Headquaters, the Prime Minister's Office has compiled The Present Status of Women and Measures (the so-called White Paper on Women), which is the fifth report on the implementation of the New National Plan of Action toward the Year 2000.
  2. This is the eighth report since the first report on the Plan of Action formulated in 1977 was published in 1978. Reports have been published annually since 1992.
  3. As 1995 was the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, the first part of the report provides a summary of advances made in the status of women in Japanese society in the fifty years which have passed since the war's end, in five different areas: life-cycle, the family, education, employment and participation in the policy-making process. The second part focuses primarily on the progress of policies for gender-equality during the period from April 1994 to September 1995. The main points of the report are as follows.

I. Advances Made by Japanese Women During the 50 Years Since the End of the War


  • More Women Glad To Have Been Born Female
    Only 16.4% of all women surveyed in 1950 said that, if they had the chance to be born again, they would prefer to be reborn as a girl. But in 1987, the percentage had jumped to more than half (53.7%). Incidentally, in the same year, 1987, 81.8% of all male respondents stated that they would prefer to be reborn as a boy.

    The status of Japanese women is gradually improving in the family, in the work place, and in the way they are viewed in society. However, their status in the work place and in the way they are viewed in society is advancing more slowly than it is in the family.


  • Living Longer and Having Fewer Children
    In 1947, the average life expectancy for women was 53.96 years, while that for men was 50.06 years. By 1994 average life expectancies had risen to 82.98 years for women and 76.57 for men. Thus, during this period, the gap between average life expectancies for women and men widened, from 3.90 to 6.41 years.

    Japan's birthrate is falling. During the years up to and including the 1955-1964 decade, this was due to couples' increasing reticence to have children, while in recent years it is due to an increase in the average age women bear their first child. Since around 1975, the birthrate among women in their 20s has dropped considerably, and this drop has not yet been fully compensated for by a rise in the birthrate among women in their 30s.

  • Couples Surviving Together for Longer Periods after Children Leave Home
    Projections obtained through life cycle models for three generations of women those who married in 1950, 1975 and 1994 show that women can be expected to live alone an average of 4.0 years in the first generation, and 8.1 years in both the second and third generations, after the death of their husbands; the average number of years these women can be expected to live only with their husbands after their children leave home in 3.9, 11.9 and 15.9 years, respectively, showing a considerable rise over time.

The family

  • Greater Freedom of Choice Regarding Marriage
    People are marrying at a later age; and, over the last few years, the age at which people marry for the first time varies greatly. This shows that the traditional view of the "proper" age to marry is disappearing. Furthermore, the percentage of unmarried people is rising: about 40% of women in the latter half of their 20s, and about 30% of men in the first half of their 30s, have never married. Also of note is the rapid rise in the percentage of women in their 30s and of men in the latter half of their 30s and older who have never married.

    "Love match" is also on the rise, and couples spend more time getting to know each other before marrying. There is also an increase in the number of couples where the wife is older than the husband, where they are the same age, or where one spouse is a foreigner. The remarriage rate for women, previously quite low, is rising to the point that it is now close to that for men.

  • Rising Divorce Rate
    Japan's divorce rate has been climbing since about 1965. In 1994, the rate was 1.57 per 1000 people, the highest ever recorded. Viewed over the long term, the divorce rate for all age groups is generally on the rise, with the rise in the rate for those in their 20s being relatively high.
  • The Popular View: A Man's Place is at Work, a Woman's Place is at work and in the Home
    The division of female and male roles into, "A man's place is at work, while a woman's place is in the home," is fading. Roles are now viewed somewhat differently: "A man's place is at work, and a woman's place is at work and in the home." Over the last 20 years, men's participation in housework has risen an average of only 6 minutes a day, but more on weekends: on the average, 21 minutes more on Saturday and 25 minutes more on Sunday.


  • Female Educational Levels Climbing Swiftly
    The percentage of females advancing to a higher level of education is rising rapidly. The rate of young women entering senior high school has been higher than that of younger men since 1969. In 1955, only 2.4% of all female senior high school graduates entered a four-year university (the rate for males was 13.1%), but this has continued to rise, reaching 22.9% in 1995 (40.7% for males). Females also enter two-year junior colleges, another institution of higher education, in great numbers: since around 1975, the rate has been over 20%.
  • Parents Tends To Urge Daughters To Attend a Junior College and Sons to Attend a Four-year University
    The percentage of parents desiring that their daughters enter an institution of higher learning is now about equal to those desiring the same for their sons. However, of there parents, more than half hope that their daughters will enter a two-year junior college. The fact that relatively few parents hope that their daughters will enter a four-year university or advance even further indicates that there is still a large discrepancy in the way sons and daughters are treated.
  • Compared with Men, a Higher Percentage of Women Do Not Enter the Labor Force after Graduating from University or Graduate School
    Since around 1980, practically no difference has been seen in the percentage of females and males who did not enter the labor force after leaving the educational system with a junior or senior high school diploma. However, the percentage of women graduating from a four-year university or graduate school and not entering the labor force has been consistently higher than that of men.

    A look at the occupations adopted by female graduates of junior colleges and four-year universities shows that, during the period around 1955, more than half entered the teaching profession. Since then, though, an increasing number of female graduates are entering a variety of occupations.


  • Graph of Japan's Female Labor Force Participation Rates by Age Group Still Shows an M-shaped Curve
    When plotted on a graph, the female labor force participation rate, by age group, shows an M-shaped curve, with the middle part of the "M" (representing women in the 30-34 age group) appearing as a pronounced valley from 1955 to 1975. Although the "M" shape still remains in graphs for subsequent years, all segments of the curve have shifted upwards, indicating that the entry of women into the labor market is generally on the rise, but that women in the childbearing and infant-rearing age group still encounter comparatively greater difficulty in continuing their work.
  • Female Employees: Numbers Increasing, Profile Changing
    The number of female employees is rising considerably. The work force now comprises a greater number of women in middle age and older, and a greater number of married women; the number of years of continuous service is also increasing. Women now occupy managerial positions to a greater extent: of all professional employees holding managerial positions, only 1.3% were women in 1950, but this ratio had risen to 5.3% in 1975 and to 9.2% in 1990.
  • The Number of Households with Working Couples Is Increasing, But Women Find It Difficult To Rear a Child While Gainfully Employed
    The number of households with working couples has increased; both spouses work in about one half of all households where a spouse is an employee. Between 1982 and 1992, there was an increase in the percentage of gainfully employed married women who had no children or whose youngest child was at least three years old, but no increase was seen in the percentage for those whose youngest child was less than three years old.

Participation in the Policy-making Process

  • Women Voter Turnout Now Surpasses That of Men
    In the period from 1945 to 1964, women's voter turnout, especially for national elections, was considerably lower than that of men, although the gap gradually narrowed during the period. Then, from the latter half of the 1960s, women's voter turnout has surpassed that of men.

    Women are showing an increasing interest in politics. In a survey conducted very soon after the war, about 40% of all female respondents said they "have an interest" in politics, while about 60% said they "have no interest." This had reversed in 1990, with about 60% saying they "have an interest" and about 40% saying they "have no interest." Yet this percentage is considerably lower than the approximately 80% of men who started they "have and interest."

  • Women Gradually Participating in the Legislature
    With regard to the participation of women in the Legislature, in the 1946 general election for the first time 39 female Diet members were elected. However, this number dropped sharply in 1947. For many years, the percentage of female Diet members remained in the 3.0 to 3.9% range, but finally, after the inauguration of the Heisei Era in 1989, the percentage increased to the point where it reached 6.3% in 1995.

    Women are participating to a growing extent in such fields as government administration and the judiciary, being promoted to positions as members of national advisory councils, or being employed as civil servants and promoted within the civil service.

II. Promotion of Measures Relating to Women

Raising Awareness of Gender Equality

  • In order to change stereotyped concepts of the roles of women and men, the Headquaters for the Promotion of Gender Equality holds national and regional meetings, and ministries and agencies organize awareness-raising campaigns.
  • To enable local governments to raise the status of women, the National Government increased its local allocation tax grants for expenses incurred in promoting women's policies: during FY1995, such grants to prefectures and municipalities show an increase of 22.4% and 40.0%, respectively.
  • As one of the health-care services based on the Health and Medical Service Law for the Elderly, starting in FY1995 medical checks for osteoporosis have been added to those for cancer of the womb and cancer of the breast.

Participation of Women and Men in Society on an Equal Basis

  • Promotion of Women's Participation in Policy-and Decision-making
    In order to attain the target that women comprise an average of at least 15% of the membership of national advisory councils by FY1995, the Headquarters for Gender Equality is taking steps to ensure the promotion of women to such positions. (As of the end of September 1995, the percentage was 14.1%)
  • Ensuring Equal Opportunities and Equal Treatment for Women and Men Workers
    To ensure that female graduates are not treated unfavorably under the present difficult employment conditions, counseling services were operated at prefectural Women's and Young Workers' offices throughout Japan for new female graduates seeking employment through advice and guidance from June to October, 1995. The Government also requested the cooperation of employer's associations in ensuring equal employment opportunities to new female and male graduates.
  • Promotion of Measures for Rural Women
    June 1995 revisions to the Farmers' Pension Fund system will, starting in FY1996, increase the scope of spousal participation in the Farmers' Pension Plan, to cover wives who farm full-time with their husbands and who in effect manage the farm, including cases when such wives do not have ownership rights to the land.
  • Promoting Men's and Women's Participation on an Equal Footing in Homemaking and in the Community
    The Basic Environment Plan, adopted by Cabinet Decision in December 1994, clearly specifies the importance of ensuring that both women and men participate on an equal footing in matters related to the environment.

    The Civil Law Committee of the Legislation Council, under the Ministry of Justice has conducted deliberations to review legislation pertaining to marriage and divorce. (In January 1996, the Committee issued its report, entitled "the Tentative Draft of the Bill Revising the Civil Code Concerning the Marriage System and Others.")

Creation of Conditions Permitting Greater Choice

  • Providing Opportunities for Lifelong Learning
    Since FY1994, the Government has been implementing its Integrated Program for Lifelong Learning Courses for Women, as a way to foster female and male awareness of gender equality. These courses provide training for advisors in the area of men's and women's equal participation in society.

    Starting in FY1995, the National Women's Education Centre is raising its research capability through appointments of visiting researchers. In addition, the Centre's Interactive Telecommunications Service WINET-BBS, which was made available on line in FY1994, has established links with 277 organizations (as of August 1995).

  • Improving Conditions for Workers with Family Responsibilities such as Child Care
    On 9 June 1995, Japan ratified ILO Convention 156, (Convention concerning equal opportunities and equal treatment for women and men workers: workers with family responsibilities) which is an international convention to aim at compatibility of responsibilities in the workplace with family responsibilities such as child-rearing and caring for family members with disabilities.(Comes into effect on 9 June 1996.)

    In order to respond better to increasingly varied demands for child care, the Government is conducting the scheduled promotion of measures drawn up in accordance with the Five-Year Projects Including Urgency Day Care Measures. Furthermore, in order to promote programs for children after classes, during FY1995 special facilities called Halls for After-class Children's Clubs were established.

    Since 1 April 1995, stipulations set out in the Child Care Leave Law (as of 1 October, renamed the Law Concerning the Welfare of Workers Who Take Care of Children or Other Family Members, Including Child Care and Family Care Leave) apply to all enterprises, even previously-exempted companies employing 30 or fewer workers.

    The Law Revising Part of the Child Care Leave Law, which came into effect on 1 October 1995, gives statutory status to a leave system permitting workers to care for family members with disabilities, and stipulates the use of measures to assist workers rearing infants or caring for family members with disabilities. Subsequent to this revision, employers are expected to adopt measures without delay, introducing leave systems for employees to provide care as set out by the Child Care and Family Care Leave Law, and shortening work hours for such purposes. With the revisions female and male workers will be entitled to take a leave in order to provide care, as of 1 April 1999.

Enhancing Welfare for Elderly Women

  • Modification to the pension system in 1994 increased pension benefits. In addition, special measures have been initiated so that even if the Category-3 insured do not submit on time papers required for calculations of the end of the term for receipt of insurance contribution payments, they will receive payments for the period once they do submit the required papers.
  • The Government has been conducting a full-scale revision of the Ten-Year Strategy to Promote Health Care and Welfare for the Elderly (the Gold Plan), with a view to further improving care for the elderly. As a result, a comprehensive plan (called the "New Gold Plan") was formulated in December 1994; implementation of the Plan began during FY1995.

International Assistance and Contributions for Peace

  • The Fourth World Conference on Women
    The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, People's Republic of China, from 4 to 15 September 1995, was attended by representatives from 190 countries and 59 UN specialized agencies, etc. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted by consensus. The Head of Delegation sent by the Japanese Government was then-Chief Cabinet Secretary and Minister for Women's Affairs Koken Nosaka; also in attendance from Japan were then-Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Labour Chieko Nono and two other Government representatives, four advisors from the Japanese private sector, 23 Diet members, and others.

    In his speech, Japan's Head of Delegation called for placing greater importance in three areas: (1) the empowerment of women; (2) respect for the human rights of women; and (3) strengthening partnerships between women and men, between governments and NGOs, and among countries. He also extolled the preciousness of peace and called strongly for countries to refrain from conducting nuclear weapon tests.

    The NGO Forum was held parallel to the World Conference on Women from 30 August to 8 September in Huairou, on the outskirts of Beijing. About 31,000 participants from countries around the world, including the People's Republic of China, attended. Approximately, 5,000 of these came from Japan.

  • Women in Development (Assistance for women in developing countries)
    At the Fourth World Conference on Women, Japan announced its "Initiative on Women in Development (WID)" expressing a readiness to continue strengthening the Women-in-Development program even further, with three priority areas for women: education, health, and economic and social participation.

Promotion of the New National Plan of Action Toward the Year 2000

  • The Headquarters for Gender Equality, established by Cabinet Decision on 12 July 1994, is working towards the smooth and effective promotion of measures to establish a society in which women and men participate on an equal footing.
  • Upon an inquiry from the Prime Minister, the Council for Gender Equality has been deliberating on the "Overall Vision of a Gender-Equal Society Towards the 21st century."
  • In commemoration of the Fourth World Conference on Women being held in Asia for the first time, Prime Minister's Awards were presented to those who had provided distinguished service toward the creation of a gender-equal society. Twenty-four of these recipients were women.