Two Steps Back: Japan’s Delayed Gender Equality Goals

2 min read
Two Steps Back: Japan’s Delayed Gender Equality Goals

Japan’s long-awaited gender equality discussions occurred last Friday, as top officials decided the future of gender equality. The current government, led by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's cabinet, has adopted a new five-year plan that would delay gender equality efforts by a decade. Including the suspension of the much-anticipated goal of having women account for up to 30 percent of leadership positions.

This follows the Japanese government’s failure to reach the 30 percent inclusion goal that was supposed to be achieved by 2020, set by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The former Prime Minister’s plan called for eliminating gender bias by the 2030s.

However, these ambitions fell short and failed to meet minimal goals such as revising laws that impede on women. Despite the push for change, minor progressions like modifying the civil code to allow women to keep their maiden names after marriage was not passed.

Throughout its efforts to promote gender equality, the government has recognized the country’s history of gender roles and the impact tradition has on the judicial system. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe openly confessed to the impact of Japan's traditional gender roles, specifically, how it affects women who intend to pursue careers in business or politics.

Japan’s past has led to little faith in the current Prime Minister’s plans to improve equality. With the majority of Prime Minister Suga’s leading lawmakers being conservative, other lawmakers have sided with upholding tradition, especially when revising the civil code. As a result, the conservative undertones in the proposed plans are evident.

The country’s struggle with gender equality is all too familiar. The 2020 World Economic Forum reported that Japan ranked 121st out of 155 countries in their evaluation of world gender equality. For many, this ranking wasn’t a surprise. Women make up less than 10 percent of lawmakers in Japan’s two-chamber parliament and 40 percent of local assemblies report having no female members or only one member.

Despite expressing support for gender equality in Japan, Prime Minister Suga’s twenty-member cabinet only has two female members. Moreover, the lack of women in politics is a bold reminder about the lack of representation for women.

For Japan, it will be crucial to remain adamant on improving inequalities. Reforming traditional laws and normalized gender roles is not going to be easy. The new five-year plan has potential and could very easily begin the long fight for equality, It’s up to the current government, and future governments to continue pushing for gender equality.


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*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.

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