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HOME  > Past issues  > 2024 June 12 - 18  > Put end to LDP gov’t sticking to outdated family values to create gender-equal Japan
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2024 June 12 - 18 TOP3 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Put end to LDP gov’t sticking to outdated family values to create gender-equal Japan

June 17, 2024

Akahata editorial

Disgracefully, Japan again received a failing mark in the Global Gender Gap Index 2024 recently released by the World Economic Forum. In the report covering 146 countries, Japan ranked 118, slightly up from 125 in the previous year. However, among G7 countries, Japan is the lowest, well below Italy’s ranking of 87. Japan also lags significantly behind African and Latin American countries.

The major factor for Japan’s low ranking is the continued slow pace of women’s participation in the political and economic fields. In the political field, as the number of female ministers increased to a record-equaling five in the 2023 Kishida Cabinet reshuffle, Japan moved up to 113 from 138 last year. This contributed to improving Japan’s overall ranking. On the other hand, in that Cabinet reshuffle, no woman was appointed to the posts of vice minister or parliamentary secretary, drawing much criticism. The reality is that gender parity in politics is far from being promoted.

Likewise, women’s advancement in the economic field lags behind as well. In this field, Japan placed 120, remaining at the lowest level. Japan’s global ranking in terms of the percentage of women in managerial positions and gender wage equality was 130th and 98th, respectively, showing little progress.

No improvement in 18 years

In addition to low rankings, Japan’s low achievement level is also a problem of concern. In the latest report in which full equality between men and women is set at 100, Japan’s was rated 66.3, almost the same level as 64.5 in 2006 when the survey started. Regarding the overall evaluation, Japan has shown little progress over the past 18 years.

The government should be held responsible for such a noticeable delay in women’s empowerment.

Japanese Communist Party parliamentarians in their Diet questioning had repeatedly demanded the disclosure of the overall gender pay gap. Finally, in 2022, the government began requiring companies with more than 301 employees to disclose their pay gap data. It is also necessary for the government to require those companies to draw up and release their plans to work on eliminating the gender pay gap.

Akahata research reveals that national administrative agencies lag behind society in narrowing the gender pay gap while the average ratio of female workers’ wages to that for male workers in the private sector is 76%. In the Cabinet Secretariat and the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, female employees earn only 64% of men’s income. The question is whether the government is actually willing to end gender discrimination.

There also is a pressing need for the national government to improve the working conditions of non-regular workers, of which 70% are women.

LDP gov’t sticks to outdated family values

The Kishida government in the current Diet session forced through a revision to the Civil Code so that a family court will order post-divorce “joint custody” or “sole custody” to the child’s parents who cannot make a custody agreement at the time of divorce. Victims of domestic violence, mostly women, are strongly concerned for the child’s safety.

On the other hand, the government still has no intent to amend the Civil Code to allow same-sex marriages and dual surnames for married couples on the grounds that the amendments would “destroy the traditional definition of the family.”

The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) on June 10 called on the government to modify the Civil Code to introduce a separate family surname system as early as possible. In this regard, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hayashi Yoshimasa at a press conference on the same day said, “Opinions on that system are varied,” adding, “It will be necessary to gain a basic understanding of such a system from a broader range of the public.” In fact, many people believe that it is the ruling Liberal Democratic Party where various opinions exist on the dual surname system, and that civil society has long been ready to accept that a married couple have different family names.

The JCP in its resolution adopted at the 29th JCP Congress in January points out that the movement calling for gender equality in Japan has been growing in response to global demands for gender equality, and that significant advances have been made just over the past few years.

The wage gap between men and women in most major companies is now publicly available. A provision that criminalizes “sex without consent” was created in the Penal Code. Judicial decisions that recognize sexual diversity have also been made. The voices of the general public organized in social movements are pushing the Japanese government day after day to move forward to a gender equal society.

To oust the LDP-led government is the quickest way to advance gender equality and establish a discrimination-free Japan. To achieve this, the JCP will continue to cooperate and work closely with concerned citizens, social movement activists, and other opposition parties in a popular front approach.
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