Japanese Women Face Sexual Harassment at Work

Japanese Women Face Sexual Harassment at WorkJapanese Women Face Sexual Harassment at Work

Three out of 10 working women in Japan say they have experienced sexual harassment at work, according to a government survey.

The survey, a first of its kind conducted by the health, labor and welfare ministry said the results reflect the difficulties women face in Japan, even as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought to make it easier for them to enter and remain in the nation’s aging, dwindling workforce, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The ministry said 30% of respondents in full and part-time employment reported being sexually harassed at work. Among full-time workers, the figure rose to 35%.

Legislation passed by parliament last year requires big companies to set numerical targets for the percentages of women hired and those promoted to management positions.

Japanese companies have been hiring more women in recent years, and a higher percentage of working-age women are now employed in Japan than in the US and Europe. But many of those jobs are temporary, part-time positions.

About one in five working women in Japan also report being harassed after becoming pregnant.

The survey released Tuesday received about 9,700 valid responses by mail and online from working women 25 to 44 years old. Overall, 29% said they had suffered sexual harassment. About a quarter said the harassment was by their immediate supervisor.

Among those who experienced harassment, only 10% had protested to the perpetrator. Nearly two-thirds said they didn’t take any action at all.

The survey found that less than 60% of about 1,700 employers offered preventive measures such as consultation services.

Abe has set an ambitious target to fill 30% of leadership positions with women by 2020 – an aim many experts believe is unattainable. Abe’s “womenomics” program also calls for an increase in the size of the female workforce to encourage growth. Economists have warned that without them, the country faces economic decline as its population falls and its workforce continues to shrink.

At present, women account for just 8% of senior roles in companies employing 100 people or more, compared to a global average of 22%, according to the Grant Thornton International Business Report 2015.

Japan also performs poorly in international gender equality comparisons. In the World Economic Forum’s 2015 global gender gap index, it ranked 101st out of 145 countries.