Suicides among working women in Japan increase by nearly 30%

There were 1,698 cases of suicide among working women in 2020, an increase of about 30% from the average for the previous five years, according to a government white paper on suicide prevention measures.

One factor is believed to be the higher percentage of women among non-regular workers. According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, non-regular employees are more likely to become unemployed or suffer a decrease in income amid the pandemic.

The overall number of suicides in 2020 was 21,081, up 4.5% from the previous year, the white paper said. It was released on Tuesday.

A total of 7,026 women committed suicide, an increase of 15.4% from 2019. This represented the second-largest rate of increase since the government began keeping statistics in 1978.

The number of men who committed suicide was 14,055, down by 0.2% from 2019.

In reviewing the reasons that many women took their own lives, the white paper paid particular attention to employment status.

In 2020, a total of 5,240 unemployed women committed suicide, slightly down from the 2015-2019 average of 5,268. However, working women who killed themselves numbered 1,698, up by 28% from the five-year average of 1,323.

By age group, there were 60% more suicides among working women aged 29 or younger, compared to an increase of about 20% among those in their 30s and 40s. By occupation, there was a notable increase among office workers, sales clerks, and medical and healthcare workers.

Based on suicide notes and other evidence related to motive, 123 working women referred to relationships in the workplace, up by 50% from the previous five-year average. Changes in the work environment were indicated by 48 working women, double the average.

According to the Labor Force Survey conducted in September, 54% of female employees are employed on a non-regular basis, such as part-time, while 21% of male workers are non-regular employees.

“Non-regular employees are more susceptible to the effects of the pandemic, such as restrictions on business hours, and that may have put a strain on their physical and mental health,” a ministry official said.