Japan Hits Historic Low in 2023 Global Gender Equality Index, Ranks 125th out of 146 Nations

In the global gender equality rankings of 2023, Japan secured the 125th spot among 146 countries, marking its poorest performance ever and placing it at the bottom of the East Asia and Pacific region, according to the World Economic Forum’s Wednesday announcement.

The news was met with condemnation from advocates for gender equality who blamed Japan’s governmental inactivity for the dismal ranking. The government, however, expressed its concern over the situation and pledged to actively address the gender disparity.

Hirokazu Matsuno, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, stated during a routine press briefing, “The government will collectively and vigorously strive to bridge the gender divide.”

According to the annual report published by the Swiss-based research institution, Japan dropped from its previous ranking of 116th due to the persistent low participation of women in the political and economic arenas. Japan also held the unfortunate distinction of being ranked last among the Group of Seven industrialized nations.

Despite achieving near-equality in education and health, the nation recorded a new low in its ranking, plummeting from the 121st position among 153 countries in the December 2019 report.

Japan’s overall performance showed a slight decline from the previous year, scoring 0.647 compared to 0.650 in 2022. The study utilizes a scale from 0 to 1, where 1 represents complete gender equality.

In its analysis of progress in economic, political, educational, and health fields, the report found that only 10% of Japan’s parliamentary seats and a meager 8.3% of ministerial positions were occupied by women. It also highlighted the country’s history of never having had a female prime minister.

Iceland took the lead in the overall gender gap ranking, followed by Norway and Finland. New Zealand, ranked fourth, was the top performer in the East Asia and Pacific region, followed by the Philippines at 16th.

The World Economic Forum projects a timeline of 131 years to completely eliminate the global gender gap, showing a marginal improvement from the 132 years estimated in 2022.

Among the G7 nations, Japan stood last, trailing Italy which ranked 79th. Germany was the highest-ranking G7 country, securing the 6th spot.

Japan also fell behind its regional counterparts, South Korea and China, which secured the 105th and 107th positions respectively.

With a political empowerment ranking of 138th, Japan was outperformed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, placed at 131st and 137th, respectively.

Japan’s economic participation and opportunity rating also contributed to its poor standing, with the nation ranked 123rd.

Cabinet Office data reflects this trend, revealing that as of July 2022, 18.7% of corporations listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s primary market had no female board members. Additionally, only a scant 2.2% of these companies had over 30% of their executive roles occupied by women.

Mari Hamada, leader of Stand by Women, an organization advocating for female lawmakers, commented, “Japan is reaping the consequences of its inability to increase female representation in politics.”

Hamada added, “In a homogeneous, male-dominated parliament, it becomes challenging to address women-centric social issues such as sexual violence, emergency contraception, and representation of minority groups. Political parties must establish quotas for female candidates and adhere to them.”

Momoko Nojo, leader of No Youth No Japan, a group encouraging youth political involvement, referred to the recent ranking as a “reflection of the current reality.”

She highlighted the persistence of traditional gender roles in the country, which hamper the government’s attempts to combat the low birthrate.

She further added, “There are individuals considering leaving Japan because they feel unheard. I want the government to understand that the current lack of progress will have an impact on future generations.”

Since 2006, the gender gap report has been published almost annually by the research institution, with the current report being the 17th edition.

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