Japan’s mental health crisis shows we need to fight harder for gender equality

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Nobuko Kobayashi, Asia-Pacific Strategy Execution Leader, EY


• The pandemic has caused the Japanese suicide rate to rise faster for women than men.

• The economic crisis has fallen disproportionately on women, something compounded by the unpaid care they take on.

• The pandemic response worldwide must address the structural issues women face in a systemic way

Japan’s chronically high suicide rate means that the country promptly publishes monthly suicide figures. With the first year of the pandemic in our rear-view mirror, the data tells a disturbing picture.

A particularly striking feature is the female suicide rate, which rose more dramatically than the male one in the latter half of the year, resulting in a 15% higher total for women in 2020, compared to 2019, while the men’s rate remained flat.

Suicide is a deeply personal course of action, each profoundly different from one another. But there is little doubt that the pattern in 2020 is broadly linked to the pandemic. Japanese women’s rising suicide rate is the tip of a global iceberg; it has been widely chronicled how the pandemic has disproportionally impacted women’s well-being. As we mark International Women’s Day today and reflect on the theme “choose to challenge”, government and the private sector must urgently put a structural response to these unique pressures on women into action.

While the health crisis of COVID-19 is almost gender-neutral, the economic crisis is not. The repeated lockdown in wide areas led to loss of jobs in the service sectors such as retail and hospitality; traditional sources of female employment. In Japan, female unemployment rose by 20 million women in December 2020 year-over-year. This represents a 34.5% increase, whereas male unemployment rose by 31.8%; lost ground on the positive increase of 3 million more working women during the economic boom years of “Abenomics” (2013 to 2019).

Economic hardship, however, is not the only factor to account for the gender-imbalanced nature of the pandemic’s impact. Even in normal times, women around the world spend more time in unpaid care and domestic work. Under the lockdown, this unequally carried burden grew worse. According to a Nissei Research Institute survey of double-income Japanese households, wives reported a 25-30% increase of time spent on chores at end June 2020 compared to January, as opposed to a 10-15% increase for husbands.

In summary, the pandemic underscores the structural issues that women face: both economic and the societal. We must address these challenges in a systemic way.

First, we need a ground-up campaign to fix the imbalance baked into everyday life – encourage men to pick up more cooking, cleaning and childcare. Iceland, No 1 in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index for 11 years, concocted a radical solution half a century ago: a day in late October in 1975, declared by UN as a Women’s Year, is remembered as “the long Friday” when 90% of Icelandic women boycotted all paid and unpaid work. While boycott and demonstration may seem extreme, social networks today can be an equally powerful weapon. Leaders in politics and business can send the message to normalize gender-equal sharing of this invisible work.

Secondly, we must address a suite of “women’s issues” that the pandemic inadvertently shone light on. For instance, reports of domestic violence surged over the world in 2020. In the political environment dominated by men, such as in Japan, these issues are conveniently glossed over. But they are becoming more visible than ever. Installing safe and free access to help, both online and offline, is critical.

Finally, the pandemic offers an opportunity to reset the nature of women’s employment; the solutions must align with the future of work. Post-COVID, the labour market will accelerate the irreversible change – technology nudging us to a contactless society, with reduced demand for the service industry. Automation will wipe out much clerical work. Women, typically filling these positions as the economy ebbs and flows, will continue to suffer without an intervention.

We must therefore invest in reskilling them, to pivot them to newer demand. The new sources of employment do not mean everyone has to work as data analysts at tech companies. The upside of the sudden digitization is that micro-entrepreneurship run from a home office suddenly looks like a feasible possibility. Support from public and private organizations can include introduction to new work styles, financing and mentoring specifically tailored to the displaced women.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about the gender gap?

The World Economic Forum has been measuring gender gaps since 2006 in the annual Global Gender Gap Report.

The Global Gender Gap Report tracks progress towards closing gender gaps on a national level. To turn these insights into concrete action and national progress, we have developed the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators model for public private collaboration.

These accelerators have been convened in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Panama and Peru in partnership with the InterAmerican Development Bank.

In 2019 Egypt became the first country in the Middle East and Africa to launch a Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator. While more women than men are now enrolled in university, women represent only a little over a third of professional and technical workers in Egypt. Women who are in the workforce are also less likely to be paid the same as their male colleagues for equivalent work or to reach senior management roles. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1206990289602301952&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.weforum.org%2Fagenda%2F2021%2F03%2Fjapan-mental-health-crisis-gender-equality%2F&theme=light&widgetsVersion=e1ffbdb%3A1614796141937&width=550px

France has become the second G20 country to launch a Gender Gap Accelerator, signalling that developed economies are also playing an important role in spearheading this approach to closing the gender gap.

In these countries CEOs and ministers are working together in a three-year time frame on policies that help to further close the economic gender gaps in their countries. This includes extended parental leave, subsidized childcare and removing unconscious bias in recruitment, retention and promotion practices.

If you are a business in one of the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator countries you can join the local membership base.

If you are a business or government in a country where we currently do not have a Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator you can reach out to us to explore opportunities for setting one up.

Depression, the slope to suicide, is linked to the loss of a sense of purpose in life. In that regard, government hand-outs, if a temporary solution, are powerless. The growing disaffection of women because of the pandemic is a wake-up call for us to address the structural issues they face. Let the pandemic be a catalyst for change.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

What does reimagining our energy system look like?

France pushes UK to stay and Germany to pay

Sudan: European Union provides €30 million in humanitarian assistance

Want a Sustainable Earth? Bring on the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Climate Change : An Already Health Emergency

Mergers: Commission clears E.ON’s acquisition of Innogy, subject to conditions

Governments, businesses ‘walk the talk’ for investment in sustainable development: UN forum

EU-U.S. Privacy Shield: Second review shows improvements but a permanent Ombudsperson should be nominated by 28 February 2019

Humanitarian aid: €7 million for disaster preparedness in Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region

As Yemen relief operations face funding gap, timing of surge in violence ‘couldn’t be worse’

Paid paternity leave should be the norm in the US

#UNGA NEWS ROUNDUP: Funding plea for UNRWA, Burkina Faso and CAR updates, Guterres praises climate change ‘pioneer’ Chirac

EU Border and Coast Guard: new corps of 10 000 border and coast guards by 2027

‘The clock is ticking’ on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, says UN deputy chief

Robot inventors are on the rise. But are they welcomed by the patent system?

Why India can show us how to achieve growth with purpose

GSMA Announces New Keynote Speakers, Event Updates for 2019 “MWC Los Angeles, in Partnership with CTIA”

Back to the basics for the EU: Investment equals Growth

More electric cars on EU roads by 2030

10 ways central banks are experimenting with blockchain

Here’s a reason to feel cheerful – the world is full of Good Samaritans

Sassoli to EU governments: Rise to the challenge. Find new shared ways to finance our recovery

‘I don’t like to give up’: veteran UN envoy reveals how two decades of quiet diplomacy gave birth to North Macedonia

UN food agency appeals for access to key storage facility amid fight for Hudaydah

We lack a global framework for saving our environment. Here’s how we change that

Politics needs to “Youth UP” in order the ensure the future of our democracies

How cities, not states, can solve the world’s biggest problems

Why tourism policy needs to use more imagination

This new form of currency could transform the way we see money

This brand is recycling underwear – here’s why

FROM THE FIELD: Turning waste into a business in the slums of Yaoundé, Cameroon

Drought in Europe: Member States agree on support measures proposed by the Commission

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: “Chinese economy has great potential, resilience and ample space for policy adjustment”, China’s Vice President Li Yuanchao reassures from Davos

EU ready to relinquish its internal tax havens

A Sting Exclusive: “Youth voice must be heard in climate change negotiations!”, Bérénice Jond Board Member of European Youth Forum demands from Brussels

The financial future of Eurozone on the agenda of Friday’s ECOFIN council

As children in Ebola-affected areas of DR Congo head back to school, UNICEF ramps up support

Ebola emergency chief decries new attacks on frontline staff, after DR Congo worker death

Azerbaijan chooses Greek corridor for its natural gas flow to EU

Donald Trump’s victory is a great opening for global EU leadership on the sustainability agenda

Coal addiction ‘must be overcome’ to ease climate change, UN chief says in Bangkok

Erasmus+ 2021-2027: more people to experience learning exchanges in Europe

COVID-19 vaccines: MEPs quiz top officials on authorisation and contracts

‘Uphold human dignity’, dismantle ‘specious notion of racial superiority’ urges UN chief

Parliament sets up plan to fight the 3,600 criminal rings of EU

FROM THE FIELD: Children in warzones denied right to education

LGBT community in Chechnya faces ‘new wave of persecution’: UN human rights experts

European Commission: Does Apple, Starbucks and Fiat really pay their taxes?

From zero to one: a realist’s guide to overcoming hopelessness

Colombia: ‘Terrible trend’ of rights defenders killed, harassed; UN calls for ‘significant effort’ to tackle impunity

Gender disparity in salary and promotion in medicine: still a long way to go

A Sting Exclusive: “Doing ourselves a favour”, Vice President Dombrovskis underscores that this time growth has to come from within the EU

Cyclone Fani hits India, UN moves to protect vulnerable refugees in Bangladesh

The business of media in 2021

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of joint control over Prosegur Alarmas by Telefónica and Prosegur

DPRK reports ‘little progress’ since historic June 2018 summit with US

Emotional control and introspectivity in times of pandemic

A revolution, an ecosystem, an ocean: 5G is just the beginning

New Eurobarometer survey shows: The majority of Europeans think the EU should propose additional measures to address air quality problems

UN Mission, community leaders, condemn South Sudan violence which left two dead at camp

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s