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EDITORIAL | International Women's Day – A Cue to Make More Changes for Parity Now

The celebration of International Women's Day is a reminder of the many improvements Japan must make to end the discrimination in wages, boardrooms and beyond.



Demonstrators hold a banner as they take part in a march to call for gender equality and protest against gender discrimination, marking International Women's Day in Tokyo, Japan March 8, 2024. (©REUTERS/Issei Kato)

March 8th was International Women's Day. Proposed by the United Nations in 1975, it was officially accepted by the UN General Assembly in 1977. Initiatives to improve the status of women and eliminate discrimination against them are now being carried out every year throughout the world. 

In Italy for example, every March 8 is celebrated as Mimosa Day. It is so called, because of the custom of men giving women mimosa flowers on this day to express their gratitude. 

Filipina activists raise their fists and banners as they march during a protest on International Women's Day at Manila, Philippines, March 8, 2024. (©REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez)

Tackling the Issues

Here in Japan, we would like to see the resolution of various issues regarding women. They should feel able to demonstrate their individuality and abilities to the fullest, both at work and in the home. 

The gender wage gap remains high. According to the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, as of January 2024, the average wage for women was only 69.5 percent of that for their male counterparts. Several factors were identified as responsible for the disparity. They include the high proportion of women in non-regular employment and the small number of women serving in managerial positions. 

In an international comparison made by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), as of 2022 the ratio of female executives in Japanese companies was 15.5 percent. That was the lowest level among the seven developed countries (G7).

Demonstrators in London take part in a rally against the oppression of women in Iran onMarch 8, 2024. (©REUTERS/Hollie Adams)

Japan's Goals

The Japanese government has set a goal of increasing the ratio of female executives in companies listed in the highest (prime) section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Its target is to see women in 30% or more of those positions by 2030.

The problem also exists among public servants working for the central government. For this, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare aims to increase the proportion of women working as section chiefs (kacho) to 10 percent by the end of FY2025. It is therefore important to spur the momentum for rectification of gender disparity nationwide. 

We will also need to make further progress in solving health issues specific to women. Why not also reconsider things like whether companies are sufficiently flexible in terms of work styles? Too, it needs to be asked whether male employees are deepening their understanding of women's issues at work. 

Prefectural labor bureaus continue to receive a constant stream of requests for consultations concerning outright sexual harassment. In addition, there are consultations regarding harassment related to things like pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare leave. Although individuals of either sex can become victims of sexual harassment, women are unquestionably affected the most. Therefore, it is essential to raise awareness throughout society of the need to protect women. 

Demonstrators hold banners as they take part in a march to call for gender equality on International Women's Day in Tokyo. March 8, 2024. (©REUTERS/Issei Kato)

Keeping a Balance

Finally in 2023, a new law was enacted to promote understanding of LGBTQ and other sexual minorities. But we must also move to secure the safety and security of women. Furthermore, fear of men who identify as women entering toilets and other spaces set aside for women only has not been dispelled. Ultimately, it is up to the central government and local governments to respond quickly to this problem. 

As for the global picture, the reality is that women in Afghanistan and certain other countries are today suffering from oppression. Japanese diplomacy should also work to alleviate this situation. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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