Japan - Gender equality

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Japan’s ODA targets gender equality at a lower rate than the OECD DAC average, but the share is growing

Japan channelled US$4.2 billion (31%) of its bilateral allocable official development assistance (ODA) in 2019 (in 2019 prices) to projects which targeted gender equality as a principal or significant goal, making Japan the fifth-largest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donor in this category in absolute terms, but 25th-highest in relative terms. Japan's 2019 contributions represent a moderate increase over 2017 and 2018 levels: US$3.3 billion or 23% of bilateral allocable ODA and US$3.3 billion or 27%, respectively.


Gender policy marker: Projects which “advance gender equality and women’s empowerment or reduce discrimination and inequalities based on sex” are tagged in the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System (CRS) database.

Recent research by Oxfam found that around 25% of projects self-reported by donors using the gender equality marker were mismarked. This has implications for the validity of funding figures.

The marker rates projects based on three possible scores:

  1. Principal, meaning that gender equality is the main objective of the project or program;
  2. Significant, for projects in which gender equality is an important and deliberate goal but not the main objective; or
  3. Not targeted, used in cases where programs do not target gender equality.

Not all projects are screened against the gender marker; this funding falls into the ‘not screened’ category.


Japan prioritizes women’s participation in development cooperation in its development policy framework, the Development Cooperation Charter. During its G7 presidency in 2016, Japan expanded upon this and announced the ‘Development Strategy for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment’, which focuses on women’s empowerment through three main priorities:

  1. Promoting women’s rights;
  2. Building the capacity of women and girls to reach their full potential; and
  3. Supporting female leadership.  

Since 2014, Japan has hosted the annual World Assembly for Women (WAW!), which brings together activists from around the world and Japan. The results of WAW! are used to inform collective actions towards women’s empowerment, but also as a reference for the Japanese government in policymaking. The 2019 WAW! was held concurrently with the Woman 20 (W20) as part of Japan’s presidency of the G20, and generated recommendations in six areas, including:

  1. Human resource development in technology;
  2. Regional economic development;
  3. Diversity in media;
  4. Women, peace, and security;
  5. Diversity in the workplace; and
  6. Support for families and mothers.

Japan’s ODA for gender equality is largely concentrated in five key sectors which comprise 84% of all gender-focused ODA. Like Japan’s overall sector allocations (see ‘ODA breakdown’), the largest focus is on infrastructure, with 61% of gender-focused ODA in 2019 allocated to this sector. This is followed by agriculture (9%), water and sanitation (5%), social services (5%), and other multisector initiatives (4%).

Japan also prioritizes efforts towards women, peace, and security (WPS) in its development cooperation activities and policies. This is guided by Japan’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (last updated in 2019), which references ODA as an important tool in meeting Japan’s WPS commitments. The plan also outlines four areas where Japan will increase its support for gender equality and women’s representation:

  1. Participation in peace and security;
  2. Conflict prevention;
  3. Protection; and
  4. Humanitarian relief, recovery, and reconstruction assistance.

Japan provides a limited amount of gender-specific ODA through multilaterals. Japan has supported UN Women since its founding with total contributions of US$134 million from 2011 to 2019, including US$22 million in 2019. Japan also contributes to the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA (see Sector: ‘Health’).

Japan provides less principal gender funding than most other donors

Within the US$4.2 billion of Japan's gender equality-focused ODA in 2019, US$103 million was directed to projects which addressed gender in a principal way (see box). This represents just 1% of all bilateral allocable ODA (DAC average: 6%). This makes Japan one of the lowest DAC members (28th) in terms of relative focus on principal gender funding.

Meanwhile, US$4.1 billion of Japan's ODA was categorized in 2019 as addressing gender in a significant way (see box). This funding is comprised largely of infrastructure projects which are categorized increasingly as gender-significant funding.
 
Projects that did not address gender represent the majority of bilateral allocable ODA (US$8.0 billion or 59%) with one-tenth of funding not screened for the gender policy marker (US$1.4 billion or 10%).

MOFA sets priorities and allocates multilateral contributions for gender equality; JICA develops bilateral projects

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) sets priorities for gender equality and manages core contributions to multilateral organizations (i.e., UN Women and UNFPA), in consultation with other ministries. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) creates and implements bilateral projects focused on gender equality and women's empowerment. Within MOFA, the Foreign Policy Bureau contains a Gender Mainstreaming Division — led by Director Mayumi Ishikawa — which is responsible for integrating a gender lens to policies across the organization, and for coordinating policies relevant to gender equality. JICA's Office for Gender Equality and Poverty Reduction — led by Senior Director Kei Miyazaki — is responsible for implementing gender mainstreaming policies across the agency.