June 13, 2019

Tokyo’s female workers demand social change

Tokyo’s female workers demand social change

Japan remains deeply conservative when it comes to gender roles—the country has a 27.5% gender pay gap and ranks 110th in the world for gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum. While last year nine medical schools admitted tampering with entrance exams to exclude female applicants, this year, at the recent Imperial abdication, women weren’t allowed into the ceremony room. They are also not considered eligible as heirs to the Chrysanthemum throne. Whilst Japanese women have often been stereotypically portrayed as submissive and weak, females are fighting against discrimination on multiple levels.

IZA World of Labor author Boris Hirsch has written on the topic of gender wage discrimination. In his article, he writes: “[A]ccounting for why certain demographic groups (such as women) consistently earn less than men is problematic. If the pattern of lower female wages arises because of discrimination, then the economy is inadequately using a large group of valuable potential employees.” “Equal pay legislation may well be missing its target,” Hirsch adds.

According to a 2017 OECD report, in a liberal democracy such as Japan, a record-high of 70% of women are working but the wage gap with men sits at a stark 25.7%. Four out of five listed companies don’t have women on their boards. Etsuko Kato, professor of cultural anthropology and gender studies at the International Christian University in Tokyo, is of the opinion that a fundamental change in thinking is needed. “We need to change the sense of values—a good work ethic doesn’t mean long hours or even going to an office, if you start to think a talented worker is someone who can manage more work in less time,” she commented.

However, progressive steps are slowly being made. Abe Sushi’s Hiroshi Abe has seven restaurants across Tokyo and he is one of few restaurant owners who have not prioritiZed gender in his staff’s selection process. In fact, he has actively been recruiting women chefs. According to him: “There is a great chance both for women and men chefs, as the industry has been growing.” He adds: “Female chefs are appreciated, as they take care of some details that male chefs don’t notice.”

Read more articles on gender and pay and incentives.