02 April 2019
The Institute has polled at least 10,000 salaried workers in Japan every year since 2010. The 2018 survey of 12,010 workers - 4,477 of whom were women - found that the percentage of women who invest is 23.5 per cent, compared with 40.1 per cent of men.
However, this gender difference in investing habits is largely due to income and generational gaps. On average, Japanese men’s annual income tends to rise with age, but women’s income remains almost the same, meaning the income gap widens among people in their 40s and 50s. At the same time, younger workers with no real memories of Japan’s so-called 'Lost Decade' of declining asset and stock prices in the 1990s tend to be more positive toward investing.
Younger women more prepared for retirement
One encouraging sign of women’s progress is that the proportion of women in their 30s who had no retirement savings slipped by 13.3 percentage points between 2010 and 2018, indicating more women now have funds - although among women in their 50s, the percentage of those who had saved nothing edged up 1.0 percentage point.
At the same time, the percentage of women in their 30s who had saved at least 10 million yen (US$90,300) rose by 6.2 percentage points in those nine years. The percentage of women in their 50s who had saved that amount grew more moderately but also headed in the right direction, from 24.4 per cent to 29.7 per cent.
This shows that the gap in women’s retirement preparation has significantly narrowed among the younger generation, though more moderately for older women.
More women realise investment is possible
Some hopeful signs are also apparent in the reasons that women have cited for refraining from investing - which is still a popular mindset in Japan, where half of household assets remain parked in ordinary low-interest bank deposit accounts.
The top reason given by women in the 2010 survey was ‘I don’t have enough money to start investing’, but this dropped from 44.2 per cent to 29.1 per cent in 2018, falling to third place. This suggests that more women realise that investment is possible even with small amounts.
Gender-linked income gap
The results of a recent report commissioned by Fidelity International also suggested that income was a main factor in women’s investment activity. That poll of 800 women found that only about a tenth of them are now investing, though salaried workers comprised only a third of its respondents, with the majority working only part-time, studying, or at home fulltime - in other words, the sample included many women who presumably would be less inclined to invest than their peers who were earning income.
This gender-linked income gap is not unique to Japan. A similar poll conducted in Australia this year of 815 women and 407 men found that about half of the women said they have no spare money to invest, compared to only 35.2 per cent of the men.
Hopeful changes in attitude
Perhaps the most hopeful signs of all can be found in women’s attitudes toward investing. In 2018, the percentage of women who held positive images of the word ‘investment’ - defined as those who chose words like ‘bright’, ‘gain’ and ‘fun’ to describe it - rose to 26.7 per cent in 2018 from 18.5 per cent in 2010.
Respondents who held a negative image - defined as choosing such words as ‘loss’, ‘frightening’ and ‘gambling’ - also increased moderately to 34.2 per cent in 2018 from 27.5 per cent in 2010, but it has held roughly steady since the 2014 survey. Moreover, the percentage of women whose image of ‘investment’ is ‘risk’ continued to decline, from 54.0 per cent in 2010 to 39.1 per cent in 2018.
Overall, while the data highlights that Japanese women still have far to go to catch up to men when it comes to investing for their futures, it also showed that younger women’s income and attitudes are moving in the right direction.
The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up so you may get back less than you invest. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.
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