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Fashion Friday: Can Japan become a diversity-welcome society?

By Guest Contributor

13 Aug 2021

The opening ceremony of the Olympics Games Tokyo 2020 finally took place on July 23rd 2021. Although diversity is one of the core values of the Olympics, Japan has lagged far behind other countries in terms of diversity including gender equality. According to Euromonitor International’s Economies and Consumers data, the income gap between male and female consumers in Japan was 33% in 2020. Inequality is evident not only in income but also in the division of responsibilities within the home and childcare tasks. In light of COVID-19, the burden on working women with families became even heavier, and when the schools were closed in spring 2020, a not inconsiderable number of women had to leave their jobs to take care of children. However, after the sexist comment made by the former Olympics committee chief executive was rebuked by global society, consumers in Japan became increasingly aware of the issue, and companies have started to react quickly to those consumers voices.

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Movements supporting women’s empowerment include product development made by consumer goods companies. For example, in the apparel industry in 2020, there was momentum with sanitary shorts that do not require the use of sanitary napkins during menstruation. This support and encourage females to spend their professional lives more comfortably.

The gender issue is not only for women who are already in the workforce, but all those who are about to start their careers. In Japan, there is a unique practice in job hunting for new graduates to have black hair, wear a black recruiting suit, and behave in a uniform manner. However, recently, this culture has been questioned. In 2020, a group of job-hunting students launched the #Shukatsusexism , directly translated as “job-hunting sexism” petitioned to question these common rules of job-hunting. The #Shukatsusexism petition calls for respecting the gender identity of job hunters, and not discriminating against applicants based on their gender expression. In the future, it is expected that companies will be questioned about their policies and approaches, or it may become a social problem that needs to be solved together with job hunters.

Unconscious gender bias in Japan is just in its transition phase. It is expected there will be an increase in demand for products and services that adapt to and claim equality. In other words, by showing a company’s commitment to correcting the influence of gender bias, companies would be able to gain support from a wide range of consumers who are beginning to be selective from an equality perspective, which means growth for the company in the future. Not only will there be more initiatives highlighting gender inequality, but consumers in Japan are also expected to become more accepting of people who are different to themselves.

Written and created for FashionUnited by Euromonitor. Explore more fashion-related podcasts on their website linked here.