Recruiters at central government offices have wound up a particularly hectic hiring season this year as they were faced with a new challenge — a tug of war over the best and the brightest female candidates to fulfill Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's order to raise the ratio of women among new employees to 30 percent or more.

Abe's call was part of measures to encourage greater female participation in the workforce, one of the major pillars of his "Abenomics" reforms aimed at revitalizing the economy.

Among all national civil servants hired in fiscal 2013, which ended March 31, including rank-and-file clerical positions, 26.8 percent were female. The ratio was 27.3 percent among those who were hired for career-track administrative positions. Abe's goal, issued last November, is to be reached in fiscal 2015, the year that starts next April 1.