THE University of Tokyo is aiming to tackle gender imbalance on its campus by offering cheaper rents for female students.
As the Asian newspaper The Asahi Shumbun reports, Tokyo University has recently announced that they will offer 30,000 yen (£223) per month from April 2017 to subsidise rental costs for female students who live alone for up to two years.
This is an attempt to address the huge gender imbalance on campus. Currently, only 20 percent of applications to study at the university are from female students, and even fewer go on to actually study at the university after taking entrance exams.
This imbalance remains, according to the university’s Executive Vice President Tomokazu Haebara, despite recent attempts by the institution to recruit more female students through secondary school visits and talks encouraging young women to take their entrance exam.
Not all female students are eligible for the subsidy, however. Unlike in the UK, eligibility for financial aid is not based on parental income, but is restricted to female students whose commuting time to the Komaba campus is more than 90 minutes.
The Asashi Shumbun also reports that it was pressure from worried parents in rural areas for the university to provide safe accommodation for their daughters which prompted the move.
Japanese university culture is more concerned with the safety of its female students and keeping them close to home than in the UK, as is evident from reports that the university is looking for ‘100 highly safe and earthquake resistant apartments near the campus, with room enough for parents to also be accommodated for overnight visits.’
That said, overall, the proposed subsidy will encourage more independence for female students. In contrast to the UK, where most students do not live at home with their parents while at university, only 40 percent of female students at the university live away from their family homes in Tokyo.
Compared to Japan as a whole, Tokyo University’s intake of female students is particularly small. As the Independent reports, Japan as a whole sees 40 percent of its university applications coming from female students: twice as many applicants as at Tokyo University.
That this innovation promoting higher education is coming from Japan is unsurprising, given the recent push in Japan towards combatting its reputation for gender inequality.
In recent years, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe’s ‘womenomics’ program has also aimed to redress this inequality by aiming to put more women in managerial positions within Japan.
However, academics and writers such as Amy Chavez believe that more needs to be done to combat sexism against women in the country more broadly. Chavez describes Japan’s inequality as: ‘infamous internationally’ and ‘one of the scourges of the nation’ in the Japan Times.
As the Independent reports, the World Economic Forum’s most recent Global Gender Gap Report ranks Japan in 101 place out of 145 countries, 83 places behind the UK, which comes in at 18th place. In the report, Japan is ranked in 106th place for their enrolment of women in tertiary (higher) education, and only 9% of Japanese representatives in parliament are women.