Gender and Land Rights Database


In 2008, the population was estimated at 127.29 million, of which 51.2 percent were women. Thirty-three percent of the population lived in rural areas (1). Women accounted for 52 percent of the total rural population in 2005 (2). Population density was 343 persons per square kilometre in 2005. The prefecture of Tokyo has the largest population among the 47 prefectures of the country, reaching a population density of 5 751 persons per square kilometre, 17 times the national average (3).

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2007 was US$ 4 599 billions, while the per capita GDP was US$ 36 021 (4). In 2007, the country’s annual GDP growth rate was 2.3 percent (1). In 2005, agriculture, forestry and fisheries accounted for 1.5 percent of GDP, while manufacturing and services accounted for 22.5 percent and 22 percent respectively (4). The agricultural sector has been shrinking in terms of its contribution to GDP and labour force. Agriculture’s share of GDP has declined from 1.9 in 1995 to 1.5 percent in 2005 (5). In 2007, the sector employed 4.2 percent of the working population, down 5 percent from 2000 (6). Furthermore, the total number of farm households was 2 981 000 in 2003, with a 1.5 percent decrease from a year earlier (5). The agricultural sector is weakening also due to the aging of the agricultural workforce (4). Among the farming population, the ratio of those aged 65 years or older reached 56.1 percent of the total in 2003 (5). Agriculture primarily involves growing rice, the nation’s staple crop, which accounted for 22 percent of all agricultural output in 2006 (7). Other crops include wheat and barley and miscellaneous cereals, pulses, potatoes, vegetable, fruits and nuts and flowers; livestock accounted for 28 percent of the total agricultural output in 2007 (7). In 2002, the government abolished the 30-year-old control of the rice output; the abolishment has gone into effect in 2008 (5).

With a Human Development Index of 0.956 in 2006, the country ranks 8th out of 179 countries (8); however, in 2007, 15.3 percent of the total population was living below the poverty line of about 2.3 million Yen per year, half the median household income (9). Life expectancy at birth in 2002 was estimated at 85.23 years for women and 78.32 years for men (4). The literacy rate was 99 percent for both sexes in 2005 (10).

In 2007, the female labour force was 48.5 percent of the total (6). Women accounted for 53.6 percent of the population mainly engaged in farming in 2006, but only 3 percent of all certified farmers were women in 2007 (7). In 1995, the Family Management Agreement recognized the role of women in farming as partners and not only as workers or assistants, by setting clear and agreed rules for the division of roles, ownership of property, share in income, and improvement of working condition. As of 2006, more than 30 000 farm household members had signed the agreement: of the total number of those who signed, 50.4 percent were a managerial couple, 16.1 percent were a managerial couple and their successor and 10.3 percent were a managerial couple and a successoral couple (11)

Land reform took place between 1945 and 1950, based on the Owner-Farmer Establishment Special Measures Law of 1945, the Amended Agricultural Land Adjustment Law and the Law concerning Special Measures for Creating Independent Farms of 1946. The government purchased all land owned by absent landlords and all but one ha of land owned by present landlords; also all lands held directly by farmers exceeding 3 ha and not being properly farmed were acquired by the government (13). The land was sold to farmers who had been tenants on landlords’ lands and to all eligible farmers (13). Through this land reform, the government sold about 2 million ha of tenanted land, about 400 thousand ha of pasture land and 1.3 million ha of untilled land to farmers, particularly tenant farmers. The percentage of lands owners went from 61.5 at the beginning of the reform to 89.2 percent upon its completion in 1950 and the percentage of tenants went from 39.5 percent to 10.8 percent (14). The decrease in tenant-cultivated land continued under the Agricultural Land Law of 1952, based on the principle of priority to owner-farmer (13). Today owner-cultivated land accounts for over 95 percent of the total farmed land (12). In 2006, the total number of farm households was 285 000 000, with an average agricultural land area per farm household of 1.8 ha (7). Cultivated land amounts to 4.65 million ha, approximately 13 percent of the country’s total area (12).

In recent years, the changing structure of the farm household, together with a shift towards farm management by individuals, has led to increasing responsibility and participation in farm management of women and decreased the number of women working as unpaid labourers (15); however, no data is available on the number of women holders.

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography