Japan to push for women’s participation after gender gap report

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan plans to push for women’s participation in society, especially in politics, top government spokesperson Hirokazu Matsuno said on Wednesday, after an annual report showed the country was struggling to narrow the gender gap.

The World Economic Forum report measuring gender parity ranked Japan 125th out of 146 countries this year, down from 116th in last year’s report.

“We need to humbly accept our country’s current situation,” Matsuno, the chief cabinet secretary, told reporters during a briefing.

In economic participation and opportunity, a category that examines labour force participation, wage equality and income, Japan was 123th, the lowest among East Asian and the Pacific countries.

Its gender parity in political empowerment was one of the world’s lowest, at 138th, behind China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Women account for just two of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s 19 cabinet ministers and roughly a tenth of lower house lawmakers.

Investors, particularly those overseas, are cranking up the pressure on Japanese businesses to diversify their boards, traditionally skewed toward older men.

Norges Bank Investment Management, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, will oppose the appointment of board chairs for Japanese companies lacking female board members, the Nikkei business daily said in April.

Kishida laid out a gender equality initiative this month, aiming for women to occupy at least 30% of executive positions in top companies by the end of the decade, from 2.2% in July 2022.

Voters and activists have also pushed politicians to take action. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party compiled a plan this month to boost the share of its female lawmakers to 30%.

(Reporting by Satoshi Sugiyama and Pasit Kongkunakornkul; Additional reporting by Mariko Katsumura;Editing by Gerry Doyle and Clarence Fernandez)