National

Japan ranks at bottom of G20, and in lowest quarter globally, for percentage of female MPs

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Japan ranked 165th out of 193 countries for its percentage of female politicians holding seats in lower or single parliamentary chambers, a report by the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union shows.

The updated data for 2018, released just ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, showed that only 47 of Japan’s 463 lawmakers, or 10.2 percent, were women, as of Jan. 1, 2019.

That’s the lowest percentage among the Group of 20 nations and a seven place drop from the previous year, when the nation was also the lowest in the G20 for its percentage of female lower-house lawmakers.

The report also noted that only 50 of 241 upper-chamber lawmakers, or 20.7 percent, were women.

The IPU’s updated report comes as Japan prepares for local elections next month, an Upper House election in late July and the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Osaka in late June. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said women’s participation in society is one of the issues that will be on the summit’s agenda.

Human rights activists involved in gender issues expressed disappointment with the results.

“It’s a real shame that Japan’s ranking is the lowest among the G20 countries,” said Atsuko Miwa, director of the Osaka-based Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center and co-chair of this year’s Civil 20, the group of civil society organizations that provides recommendations to G20 members.

“I think that a major reason is that while more than 100 countries have introduced gender quotas (to raise the percentage of female lawmakers), Japan has not. Doing so would be one positive action to address the imbalance,” she said.

“Women account for 51 percent of the Japanese population, and it’s crucial that the voices of women and their issues be reflected in politics in order to address various problems of modern society.

“More women in politics will have a positive effect on solving Japan’s demographic problems, realizing work-life balance and showing the importance of society being involved in taking care of people,” she added.

While only 10 percent of Lower House members are female, the situation was more varied at the local level. Data from the Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office showed that, as of 2017, women made up 17.2 percent of large municipal assemblies, and 14.4 percent of smaller city assemblies. But they only made up 10.1 percent of prefectural assemblies and 9.9 percent of town and village assemblies.