14% of Local Assemblies in Japan Have Zero Women: Report

14% of Local Assemblies in Japan Have Zero Women: Report

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Prefectures of Japan, color-coded
Picture: FUTO / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
A new survey shows that women in Japan are often shut out of government, not just at the national level, but the local level as well.

Women remain under-represented in Japanese politics. Now, a new report reveals just how much work remains to be done.

A survey by Kyodo News examined how many female representatives exist in Japan’s 1,788 prefectural and municipal governments. It found that a full 14.3% have zero women elected. Another 437 have only a single woman. The two combined account for 38.8% of all local governments in Japan.

All told, women make up only 15.4% of elected representatives in local governments, despite comprising slightly over half of Japan’s population.

The best and the worst

The local governments with zero women are all cities, villages, and towns; no prefectural or ward assemblies shut out women. Only Yamanashi and Kumamoto prefectures have a single female representative in their respective prefectural assemblies.

The prefecture with the largest number of local governments without women is Hokkaido at a stunning 52 out of 180. Percentage-wise, the worst was Aomori at 36.5%.

Chiba, Kanagawa, Osaka, Tochigi, Hiroshima, and Kagawa prefectures ranked the best in representation: not a single local government in these prefectures lacks female representation.

Women comprise 15.4% of all elected representatives at the local level. Of these, few hold positions of power. Only 76 women lead their local assemblies compared to 1,712 men – a paltry 4.2%.


Women shut out of politics in Japan

Women crossing street in Tokyo
Picture: Michael Gordon / Shutterstock

Unfortunately, many local governments seem to have no interest in changing this situation. Of the assemblies surveyed by Kyodo, only 289 are working to increase female representation. 1,493 say they have no such initiatives.

Mind you, the situation isn’t any better nationally. Women comprise less than 10% of Japan’s Diet.

Officially, large institutions such as Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) say they are working to include more women in politics. However, the rhetoric often doesn’t match reality. In 2021, after vowing to raise its foster of female candidates to 35%, the LDP topped out at around 20%.

However, there are signs of change. As of 2022, Japan’s political parties raised their percentage of female candidates to 32.4%. The parties with the most representation are the Japanese Communist Party at 51.9% and the Constitutional Democrats (CDP) at 46.5%.

The LDP-allied Komeito is the worst, at a paltry 14.3%. However, that’s an increase from 2019, when it was a mere 8.3%. Likewise, the LDP raised its roster from 14.6% women to 23.2% women. between 2019 and 2022.

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「女性ゼロ」議会14%、1人以下4割 均等遠く 共同通信調査. Mainichi Shimbun

候補者「男女均等」道半ば 各党注力も女性3割余―参院選. Jiji

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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