Tokyo (majirox news) – For the first time ever, single Japanese women under 30 years of age have surpassed Japanese single men in the same age group in salary. Women made up about 89 percent of Japan’s 8 million part-time workers in 2009, according to the Health, Welfare and Labor Ministry. Women made around $2,566 after taxes for the third quarter of 2009, which exceeded that of men by about $32, according to a survey by Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
In Japan, where women generally still earn only 60 to 70 percent of men’s wages, this seemingly small gap is huge. “We are not saying women have caught up with men,” says Ai Nishida, the Ministry of Internal Affairs Consumer Statistics department. “The pay gap overall is still lower for women. Men usually make more in earnings in most fields and come out ahead.”
These gains are driven by Japan’s economic downturn, which affected men in the manufacturing and industrial sector. However, the demand for women in the medical service and nursing care industry increased because of a shortfall in the number of caregivers, Nishida noted, especially for Japan’s aging population.
More than one-fifth of Japanese people are over the age of 65, and this population is projected to make up more than 40 percent of the total population by 2055, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Tokyo.
U-Can Corporation, one of Japan’s largest corporations providing correspondence courses, listed its top 30 courses in 2010: two of the top five courses were related to the medical field – Medical Coding and Dispensary Clerical Certificate. The courses are popular with women and emphasize the benefits of having specialized medical knowledge in Japan’s economic downturn.
Yayoi Fukushima, an administrator at Shuto Iko Medical College in Tokyo, agreed: her school has recently seen an increase in the number of applicants and enquiries to its school “because there is an increased awareness among the younger generation that having specialized skills and knowledge is a strong advantage in Japan’s economic downturn,” she says.
A physiotherapist in her 30s, who did not want to be named, says that many women are looking for jobs in nursing and the medical fields because they require specialized skills and knowledge for helping people.
“It’s a rewarding job,” she says. “Although, I continue to see many women leave these jobs when they get married, and that leads to the high turnover. This is also probably the reason for the increase in the medical and nursing jobs.”
Keiko Higuchi, Japanese activist, writer and professor at Tokyo Kasei University, told Majirox News that after having been chair of a committee evaluating the diverse activities of big business for the past two years, she is not surprised to learn about the change in the status of women.
“In the last 5-6 years some big Japanese companies have embarked on a vigorous campaign usually called ‘diversity and inclusion’ or another catch phrase to recruit women.”
In addition, she points out that companies want to utilize the power of women for their survival in Japan’s increasingly severe business environment. As a result, some of the big banks now boast that they have over 100 female managers in their branch offices.
“Such tendencies are clearer in cosmetic companies, department stores and the financial sector, which always had a significant number of feminine workers in their hold.”
Another key factor is that Japanese women are marrying later and choosing to work instead. In 2008, the average age of marriage was 28.5, and more than 54 percent of Japanese women are single at age 30, according to the Japanese Bureau of Statistics at the Ministry of International Affairs and Communications. Still, female workers numbered 27.7 million in the Japanese workforce in 2009, compared to 38.4 million men.
The downturn in Japan’s economy combined along with the country’s aging population will most likely continue to strengthen the shifting working fate for both women and men in Japan.