Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Japan is most backward advanced country

The empty seat known as the 'gaijin seat' on a crowded Japanese train: This topic was popularised by the Japan Times columnist Baye McNeil. “If you’re a conspicuous non-Japanese living here who rides the trains or buses, or goes to caf├ęs or anywhere in public where Japanese people have the choice of sitting beside you or sitting elsewhere, then you’ve likely experienced the empty-seat phenomenon with varying frequency and intensity.”

The Global Gender Gap Report 2021 published by the World Economic Forum has Japan with the 120th ranking among 156 countries. Angola has the 119th rank and Sierra Leone is at 121th. Just 10 countries have a woman Head of State, and 13 countries have a woman Head of Government and for representation of women in the Lower House of Parliament (Diet), Japan is at the 165 ranking of 190 countries. Naura is at 164 and Qatar is at 166th.

In October 2021 Japan raised the number of female Cabinet ministers by 50%, from 2 to 3 among 22 members.

Japan has been ruled by women in the past but in 1889 the modernisers who led what was called the Meiji Restoration of 1868-1912, had a law passed decreeing that a male could only ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne. Males could marry outside the imperial household but females who married an outsider were ejected. The imperial household had 18 people until Princess Mako married her commoner Japanese lover in October. She and her future husband had been hounded by the Japanese media for years.

The current emperor Naruhito has one child, a daughter.

Japanese men traditionally worked long hours, followed by a drinking session while the women took care of the home whether they worked or not.

According to the Nippon Communications Foundation, the government’s labour statistics show that 56% of female workers were employed in nonregular jobs (part-time or temporary) in 2019. Of those, 83% were making less than ¥1.9 million a year, while 44% made less than ¥1 million yen (less than US$9,000 annually).

Almost 37% of the country’s labour force, or more than 20.6m workers, are nonregular employees, according to the latest government statistics, up from around 16% in the early 1980s.

Japan faces a trifecta of existential challenges: 1) the world's oldest population as the population falls 2) a collapse in the number of marriages and childbirths 3) the ripples from economic stagnation where young men cannot find a stable job that would give them the chance of getting married. Called "parasite singles" as they remain living with their parents, a 2019 study found that the lack of heterosexual sexual experience is rising and that men with permanent, full-time and well-paid jobs were more likely to have had sex.

The rate of unmarried mothers was only 2.3% in 2015 with Korea 1.9% (2014). The births outside marriage in 2012 were at 2.2% compared with Sweden's 54.5%.

As poverty rises in Japan, the country’s middle class is slowly eroding away, according to a recent report by Oxford Economics’ Shigeto Nagai.

“After the (property) bubble burst in the 1990s, income has declined across the income percentiles, and the share of low-income households has risen as those of middle- and high-income groups shrink,” Nagai, who is head of Japan economics at the firm, wrote in the report.

Japan is the only G7 industrialised country that has not legalised same-sex marriage (Group of Seven: US; Germany; Japan; France; UK; Italy and Canada).

Under Japanese law, married couples are not allowed separate surnames and have to choose one or the other. About 96% choose the man’s surname.

The treatment of women as second class citizens has been costly.

In 2018 it was revealed that top Japanese medical universities were rigging entrance exams to depress the enrollment of women.

The male officials and others that implemented systematic discrimination at Tokyo Medical University  framed their actions as a “necessary evil.” The key reason cited was their concern that too many female doctors would result in too few doctors at their affiliated hospitals when women left their work for marriage or childbirth.

In early 2021 Yoshiro Mori, an 83-year-old former prime minister (2000/2001), who was the head of the Tokyo Olympic Committee, tried to justify the lack of women at a senior level in the Committee, by saying women talk too much at meetings and make them run on too long! He was eventually forced to resign.

In 2019, 53.3% of all Japanese women age 15 and older participated in the nation's labour force, compared to 71.4% of men.

In the same year, 44.2% of employed women were part-time and temporary workers, compared to only 11.7% of employed men.

Time spent daily in unpaid work, in minutes: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — it has 38 member countries and 31 of them are advanced economies.

Japan   W 224   M - 41 minutes (Women and Men)

Korea   W 215   M - 49

Germany W 242   M - 150 

OECD average W 263  and M 136.5

Employment indicators on Gender Inequality

Share of female managers 2019:

OECD average 33.3%; Japan 14.8%; Korea 15.4%; Sweden 40.3% and Ireland 35.3%. 

Length of maternity leave: OECD average 19.7 weeks; Sweden 19.9; US 0; Japan 14

Female share of seats on boards of the largest publicly listed companies:

OECD average 26.7%; Sweden 38%; Japan 10.7% and Korea 4.9%

Population dynamics

Japan in 2020 had a population of 126m and it had fewer babies born than in 1899 when the population was about 44m. The population will more than halve, from a peak of 128 million in 2017 to less than 53 million by the end of the century, the researchers behind a Lancet study predict.

Japan has the oldest people in the world with 29% of the population over 65; the population over 90 is at more than 2m and there are over 80,000 centenarians. Women have a life expectancy at birth of 87 years and men are at 81 years. The diet is also more healthy than in Western countries.

Forecasts say that elderly people will account for more than 35% of the population by 2040.

The immigrant population ratio is 2.3%.

The population crisis began in 1950 after the three boom years, 1947-1949, and the total fertility rate (TFR) fell by more than half, from 4.54 in 1947 to 2.04 children per woman in 1957. Japan was recovering from the devastating Second World War and both birth control and abortion were promoted to keep the growth of the population under control. The steep decline with such rapidity is said to be unprecedented in the recorded history of mankind.

There was a second baby-boom from 1971 to 1974 and it petered out as the economy was hit by a quadrupling of oil prices and a spurt in inflation. After 1974 the country has failed to raise its fertility rate to the replacement level of 2.1.

Shinzo Abe who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020 — the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history — did enact some measures to help women, but the culture won out. Work hours were capped but many workers remain afraid to take their full annual leave as they could be seen as unreliable.

In the early 1970s, the annual number of marriages in Japan exceeded 1m with the marriage rate (per 1,000 population) hovering over 10.0. However, both the number of couples and the marriage rate have been on a declining trend thereafter. In 2020, 525,490 couples married, and the marriage rate was 4.3.

As recently as the mid-1990s, only one in 20 women in Japan had never been married by the time they turned 50, according to government census figures. But by 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, that had changed drastically, with one in seven women remaining unmarried by that age.

And for women ages 35 to 39, the percentage was even higher: Nearly a quarter had never been married, compared with only about 10% two decades earlier.

A 2018 Japanese government report showed that as of 2015, 47.1% of men and 34.6% of women aged 30 to 34 were unmarried. The situation was only slightly better for the 35-to-39 age group, with 35% of men and 23.9% of women remaining single. A 2015 survey by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that among singles aged 18–34, roughly 69.8% of men and 59.1% of women were not involved in a steady relationship. Approximately half of the respondents, 30.2% of men and 25.9% of women, also expressed that they had no intention of looking for a girlfriend or boyfriend.

The rate of unmarried mothers was only 2.3% in 2015 with Korea at 1.9% (2014). The births outside marriage in 2012 were at 2.2%. compared with Sweden at 54.5%.

A total of 840,832 babies were born in Japan in 2020, a decrease of 24,407, or 2.8%, over 2019.

The fertility rate, or the average number of children a woman is expected to give birth to in her lifetime, dropped to 1.34 in 2020, down 0.02 points from 2019, falling for the fifth straight year.

The number of marriages in 2020 was the lowest since the end of World War II and plunged to 525,490 couples, a decrease of 73,517 over the previous year.

The natural population decline of 531,816, calculated by deducting the number of births from the number of deaths, in 2020, was the largest ever.

Takumi Fujinami, a senior researcher at the Japan Research Institute, has estimated that the number of births in 2021 will fall to about 797,000. That would be nine years earlier than an earlier estimate that had the figure falling under 800,000 in 2030.

In 2020, South Korea's population declined for the first time, with the number of births down 10% from the previous year. South Korea's total fertility rate in 2020 was 0.84 births per woman—the lowest figure in the world and well below the replacement-level rate of 2.1.

India has slipped 28 places to rank 140th among 156 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia.

In Asia, the Philippines was the best-performing country, at 17th, while South Korea came in 102nd and China 107th.

The founding father of communist China, Mao Zedong, may have said that women “hold up half the sky” but no woman has ever been appointed to the elite Politburo Standing Committee, the group of seven men at the top of the communist party.


Japan has many challenges but it's a shame that it is so backward in its attitude to gender equality.

Japan is the only G7 country where suicide is the leading manner of death for young people aged 15 to 39. And suicides among those under 20 had been increasing even before the pandemic, according to the health ministry.

An editorial in the 'The Mainichi' national newspaper in March 2021 noted that:

While the Japanese government calls countermeasures against the falling birthrate its biggest challenge, its response to the issue has been severely lacking. It has applied public health insurance to fertility treatment -- a step forward -- but across-the-board measures to support families with small children remain scarce. First and foremost, the government needs to focus on labour policy.

The rising number of unmarried people is a major factor behind the falling birthrate. The ratio of unmarried people is high, especially among nonregular workers. Under current conditions, these workers must give up on marriage because their jobs and income are unstable. This must be remedied.

The government should urge businesses to thoroughly implement the principle of "equal pay for equal work," and guide them to treat nonregular employees better. We also urge the government to enhance job training for growing sectors of the economy, to facilitate people's switch from non-regular to regular employment ...To lighten the financial load of raising children, the government is also encouraged to boldly enhance child allowance and tuition-free programs for universities and other tertiary education institutions.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) calls 40 states and territories "advanced."

The 19 member countries of the Euro Area plus Sweden, Denmark and Czechia are a total of 22 EU members. Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and the UK make the European total 26.

The US and Canada represent North America. Japan, Korea, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Isreal total 7 for Asia.

My total is 35 as I left out Andorra, Hong Kong, Macau; San Marino and Puerto Rico.

Time Magazine covers from 1971 and 1981 when America was out-gunned in electronics and motor vehicles

The book 'Japan as Number One' by Ezra F. Vogel became a bestseller in the US in 1979. Edwin O. Reischauer, the first Japanese-born and Japanese-speaking US ambassador to Japan (1961-1966) wrote for the cover "Japan today has a more smoothly functioning society and an economy that is running rings around ours. Vogel's book helps explain why Japan is the most dynamic of all modern industrial nations. It argues that the primary reason for our chronic trade imbalance with Japan is Japanese superiority over the US in industrial competitiveness. And it suggests how an understanding of the Japanese experience might assist America in overcoming some of its own societal and economic difficulties."

In 1979 Sony launched the Walkman the first mobile music device. It had no software!

In 1989 amidst a huge property bubble, Japanese companies made up about half the world's 100 most valuable corporations. In November 2021 it has 3 ─ Toyota is at the 40th ranking; Kevence Corporation is at 89th and Sony Group at 93.

In January 1992 while attending a banquet hosted by Kiichi Miyazawa, the Japanese prime minister, George H. W. Bush, US president, fainted after vomiting in Miyazawa's lap. Bush had a group of American auto chiefs with him who were begging for access to the Japanese market. Newsweek reported that in Japan, Bush was mocked as a travelling car salesman by the local press.

Bill Powell of Time wrote that "Miyazawa gently cradled Bush's head as the stricken president slumped in his chair, an image that we journalists couldn't resist using as a metaphor. The country that had been vanquished militarily now seemed poised to conquer the world economically. The Atlantic Monthly captured the angst this caused in a two-part series entitled 'Containing Japan.'

Warren Buffett, the US investor, once commented "Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked." The Japanese and the Irish had very bad hangovers after property credit bubbles burst.

In the past 30 years, Japanese governments and businesses have struggled with a banking crisis and low growth.

In Japan, the percentage of the working-age population peaked at 69% in the mid-1990s according to Dr Martin Schulz from the Fujitsu Research Institute. Since then it has tumbled precipitously to around 56% and will sink below 50% towards 2040, based on UN figures.

The job for life is disappearing and pay for many workers is stagnant

Japanese companies have a global presence and reputation, but most remain surprisingly dependent on Japan’s domestic market for revenues while struggling to capture a reasonable share of dynamically growing emerging markets. A McKinsey analysis showed that Japanese high-tech companies, as a group, had generated more than 50% of their sales in the home market, growing by a mere 1% annually, compared with growth of 5 to 10% in the developing world and 2 to 3% in other developed markets.

In 2009 Japan had the lowest score of any of the International Monetary Fund’s advanced economies on the Test of English as a Foreign Language, administered to foreign students who want to study in the United States. It had the second-lowest score among Asian nations, outperforming only Laos.

The electronic giants such as Sony and Panasonic were unprepared for the digital revolution.

The Walkman had no software and Japan also stumbled when the market for mobile phones gave them an opportunity.

Many firms have low labour productivity.

Japan remains the world’s third-largest economy but it is only 28th in a 2021 global ranking of digital competitiveness by Swiss business school IMD, and Tokyo was rated 15th for provision of start-up ecosystems by research group Startup Genome. Dublin was at the 36th ranking.

Research and Development investment is lagging the United States but Japan still comes second with 29% of the top global 100 innovators while the other countries are in the single digits.

Japan had the 13th ranking behind China in the Global Innovation Index 2021.


Japan's marriage crisis