Japan Plans to Postpone 2020 Goal of 30% Female Leadership to Later This Decade

The goal of raising to 30% by this year the percentage of women in leadership positions in politics and business is being postponed by the government to “as early as possible in the 2020s,” The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

This is according to a draft of the Fifth Basic Plan for Gender Equality, which also states the need to support women affected by the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Basic Plan is set to be finalized by the end of the year.

The draft mentions three main factors that made achieving the “30% by 2020” goal difficult. First, in the political arena, balancing political activities and family life is difficult. Second, in business, the building of structures to recruit and promote women to managerial positions is still in progress. Third, there remain deep-rooted public perceptions about gender-based division of roles.

In light of the current situation, the draft pushes back the target date to as early as possible during this decade and states the goals for Japanese society in the 2030s: “Everyone can play an active role without being conscious about gender. There is no gender imbalance in leadership positions.”

Among specific numerical targets, it calls for raising the percentage of female candidates for House of Representatives elections to 35% by 2025 from 17.8% in the last election in 2017. For elementary school and junior high school principals, the goal is to increase the percentage from 15.4% in 2019 to 20% by 2025.

Regarding a system to allow people who marry to keep their original surnames if desired, the draft states: “We hope the Diet will swiftly advance the discussion. The government will also take necessary measures.”

However, with persistent opposition to this issue within the Liberal Democratic Party, the government and the ruling parties are adjusting the final wording.

The pandemic has impacted women’s employment. The number of consultations regarding sexual violence has also increased. The draft calls for an all-in-one support center to be available 365 days a year in all prefectures by 2025.

In addition, it states that permitting the use without a prescription of emergency contraceptives, taken to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the event of sex crimes and other at-risk situations, “will be considered” under the condition that a pharmacist with specialized training provides explanations before a woman takes the drug.

In response to the issue of discrimination against female students in medical school entrance exams, the draft urges universities to “proactively disclose the acceptance rates by gender.”

The Basic Plan is revised every five years, and the fifth plan covers the period from fiscal 2021 to 2025. The government aims to approve it through a Cabinet decision in the middle of this month.