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Japan ranks 101st globally for gender equality, but Web users shrug


Japanese women walk down a Tokyo shopping street. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The annual World Economic Forum report on gender gaps, which measures social and political gender equality across 135 countries, has placed Japan 101st on the global ranking. That places Japanese women alongside those of, for example, Tajikistan or Gambia in terms of their political and social equality in society. Bangladesh ranks 15 points higher. 

How did Web users in Japan react? The editors at JapanCrush, a just-launched blog that follows Japanese social media, parsed and translated some responses. It's a purely anecdotal collection, but the largely dismissive responses might inform whatever Japanese social attitudes could be linked to the country's poor ranking. 

"Some netizens suggested that the rankings favoured the Scandinavian countries that occupied the top positions," the JapanCrush editor wrote. "Furthermore, many commenters seem to imply that women and men are inherently different, and that women should just be housewives since it makes them happy."

Head over to JapanCrush to read through the responses, but here are two representative examples from their findings:

The way societies are constructed varies, so as a rule we can’t really compare them, can we? There are plenty of women around who want to become housewives. Social development is not gender equality that takes the shape of something we can see; the criteria should be whether men and women have their chosen paths obstructed because of their gender. We shouldn’t just drag women into working society against their will for the sake of statistics when they long to be housewives.

I think it’s crazy that there is not much difference in salary between a woman who fiddles with her smart phone all day at work and a man who works on site and does office work.

Harvard sociologist Mary C. Brinton, in her landmark book on women in post-war Japan, argues that the country's education system, labor market and institutions developed during the post-war reconstruction and "economic miracle" in ways that produce "a high level of gender differentiation and stratification in the economy" and thus across Japanese society.

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