Japan has the highest gender inequality index among developed countries, what efforts has the Japanese government made to combat inequality?

What are the implications of gender inequality? You may have words in mind that increase confrontation and reduce democratic participation, but it also includes mental health problems.

Recently, women's mental health caused by economic and social inequality has been debated in Japan, and the government has successively proposed solutions for women's economic policies and the establishment of a Ministry of Solitude.

Japan has the highest gender inequality index among developed countries

Although more and more Japanese women have entered the workforce over the past few decades, they are still mainly responsible for part-time or contract jobs, which prevents them from achieving stable career development in the labor market, and the large wage gap is also expected. In addition to under-representation in the labour market, the same is reflected in politics and higher education.

According to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Index report, Japan ranks 116th out of 146 countries in the world, and Japan has even the highest gender inequality rate among economically developed countries.

In an already unfavorable situation, Covid-19 is more like a further last hand, pushing women to a more marginalized position, making them the first targets of the pandemic wave of unemployment.

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The intertwining of the pandemic and gender inequality has increased the rate of female suicide

It is worth noting that the impact of unemployment on women is not only economic, but also social network isolation. That is to say, those women who have not entered the workplace may fall into the dilemma of "self-isolation" due to the lack of a network to contact the outside world, under the interaction of social discrimination against women and social isolation, and will be pushed into a marginalized situation again.

In addition to rising unemployment, the impact of the pandemic on women includes an increase in domestic violence, and women with caregiving responsibilities are experiencing more mental health problems than men, leading women to commit suicide at an unprecedented rate.

Between 2019 and 2020, the number of women who died by suicide increased by 15%. In 2021, the number increased to 7,068 female suicides, 42 more than the previous year.

Michiko Ueda, an associate professor at Syracuse University who studies suicide in Japan, said that suicide has always been a major problem for Japanese men, but during the epidemic, women's suffering has increased, and the government has had to face up to the high rate of female suicide for the first time.

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Shinzo Abe pushes women's economics to solve the trap?

However, we all know that gender inequality is not only caused by deep-rooted social stereotypes, but also by institutions.

Therefore, if we look at the policy perspective, we can see that Japan's economic reforms over the past two decades, although promising to empower women, can actually be seen from the following two points, the policy has actually pushed women to the margins:

Women make up 70% of non-regular employees and often sign short-term, low-paid contracts with very little stability

2. Nearly two-thirds of women leave the workforce after having their first child, and Japanese companies often pay bonuses to husbands whose wives stay at home, and the tax system favors single-income families.

Prominent sociologist Chizuko Ueno blames all this on women's economics launched by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2013 to help women consolidate their economic power.

"Japan has become a class society, in which you cannot create interclass solidarity, and women are either forced into low-paid jobs or completely excluded from the working population, leaving the function of caring for children or the elderly, and never being included in the economic system, which is obviously a man-made disaster caused by policy."

Chizuko Ueno admits that even as the government tries to promote women's employment, rigid gender roles in society have led to slow change, a series of reforms have had little effect on improving women's livelihoods, and economic marginalization has once again led to women's mental health problems.

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Women + singles, the situation may be more unfavorable

I only talked about the status of "female" earlier, and if we add another "single parent" condition, the situation will be even less optimistic.

Kunihisa Koyama, CEO of Little Ones, a nonprofit that supports single mothers and their children, said that "for many women, isolation and loneliness are persistent, but the government only focuses on what happens during pregnancy," meaning that the government is more worried about declining fertility than about women's well-being.

Therefore, the state of women during pregnancy will directly affect the national fertility rate, and the issue of depression at that time will be classified as important, but when women return to their status as mothers or workers or even job seekers after childbirth, the situation will be different.

The Forum for Single Mothers, a nonprofit organization conducted a survey of women's mental health during the pandemic and found that a high percentage of women suffer from severe depression and anxiety.

Chieko Akaishi, the head of the group, reveals the absurd reality that even with data collected that would attract the attention of the government, this disturbing information had to be hidden given that society could link single women to mental illness and exacerbate the stigma attached to single motherhood.

However, Sachiko Horiguchi, a professor of anthropology, said that if the same melancholy happened to men, men would not face the same shame.

Because they will receive the explanation of "depression because of hard work", and even Infinity Gang will contribute to Japanese society for their depression, and at the same time, their mental health problems will be taken seriously.

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Noun definition: the hidden gender inequality: the stinger? Housewife?

Not only do societies interpret mental health problems differently for men and women, but we can also see the shadow of gender inequality from the use of everyday vocabulary.

In March this year, a survey released by the Japanese government showed that 40% of people identified as hikikomori were women, subverting the previous society's assumption that almost all of them were men.

Sachiko Horiguchi said this is due to the increasing number of housewives who have become isolated after being evicted from the labor market, making women a stinger. Paradoxically, however, women have never been portrayed as stinging people because society expects women to stay at home, handle household chores, and even take their loneliness for granted.

In this regard, Syracuse University professor Ueda Ballmer made a simple note: "Women do not call themselves stingers. They call themselves housewives."

The same are all stinging people who stay at home and stay at home, but the change of gender is changed, and the interpretation given by society is different.

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The Japanese government set up a Ministry of Solitude to reduce people's sense of isolation

Looking at the data, you will find the relationship between gender inequality and mental health, but what we see is the Japanese government's single-point solution.

First of all, to address mental health issues, the Japanese government followed the example of the UK during the pandemic and set up a loneliness department to deal with the growing sense of isolation in society.

Later, in order to improve the economic situation, the Japanese government introduced policies such as women's economics, but the official did not disclose how many people benefited from the policy data, and officials of the Ministry of Solitude even bluntly said that the ministry still has room to work to solve women's psychological problems.

Perhaps if the Japanese government is to truly reduce people's loneliness, the first thing to do is to eradicate the root cause of the problem, which is gender inequality, and only by zooming in on the whole problem from a structural perspective can it play a structural role in structural change.