Knowledge Center

Women in the Labour Force in Japan


  • In 2010, Japan’s total population was 128,056,000; women were 51.2% of the population (65,555,000).1
  • In 2010, life expectancies at birth for women were the longest in the world at 86.4 years.2 Japan has the highest percentage (23.1%) of people aged 65 years old and over.3
  • In 2009, the total fertility rate was 1.37. The total fertility rate trend for Japan has shown a dramatic decrease over the last sixty years (below the replacement level).4
  • The population in Japan in 2050 is projected to decrease to 95,152,000 people, with women making up 52.4% of the population (49,832).5

Labor Force

  • In 2010, women made up 42.2% of the labor market in Japan.6
  • In 2010, 48.5% of women participated in the labor force while 71.6% of men participated in the labor force.7 Japan’s women labor force participation rate is one of the lowest numbers among OECD countries.8
  • Women’s labor force participation rate drops for the age group of 35-39 years old, indicating that women tend to leave labor force when they get married or give birth to a child.9
  • Women are much more likely to be employed as non-regular employees than as regular employees than men. In 2010, ratio of non-regular employees among all women employees was 53.8% while the number was 18.9% for men.10
  • In 2010, the highest rate of labor participation for women was 77.1% for those aged 25-29; in comparison, 98.1% of men aged 30-39 were in the labor force, the highest rate for men.11
  • In 2010, the unemployment rate for women was 4.6 % while it was 5.4% for men.12
  • In 2010, the percentage of women in private companies was 24%.13



  • Women earn 60% of men’s wage for similar work.14
  • World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2011 ranks Japan 100 for gap in economic participation and opportunity and 101 for political empowerment out of 135 countries.15


  • In 2009, 10.5% of managerial employees in private corporations were women. In corporations with more than 30 employees, women occupied 5.0% of section chief level positions.16
  • In 2010, Women made up 4% of CEOs in Japan.17

Educational Achievement

  • In 2010, 42.1% of students enrolled in undergraduate level were women.18
  • In 2010, 66.5% of university students in the humanities were women compared to 10.9% in engineering. In addition, 26.8% of women were in social science fields.19
  • In 2009, 16.7% of faculty members at universities (presidents, vice presidents, professors, associate professors, and lecturers) were women.20
  • In 2009, the percent of women in research (13.0% ) is well below the target of 30% by the year 2020.21



  • In the 1990s the number of dual-income households surpassed the number of those in which only the man was employed. That upward trend continues today.22
  • Time spent on housework and child care by Japanese men is at the lowest level when compared with other countries.23

How to cite this product: Catalyst. Catalyst Quick Take: Women in the Labour Force in Japan. New York: Catalyst, 2012.