Fewer women elected in Lower House poll despite empowerment law

In Sunday’s general election, 45 women were elected to the 465-seat House of Representatives, down two from the previous contest in 2017, despite a law promoting female participation in the political field, data showed Monday.

While the election was the first Lower House poll since Japan enacted the law in 2018, urging political parties to make efforts to field an equal number of male and female candidates, women accounted for 9.7% of the lower chamber members, falling 0.4 percentage point from 10.1% marked in the previous election.

There were 186 women among candidates who ran in the election, making up 17.7% of the total — the highest level on record, but still far from standing on par with men. A total of 24.2% of the female candidates landed a seat.

By party, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has 20 women among its 261 lawmakers, while the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan has 13 among 96 elected to the chamber.

With Japan listed 120th overall out of 156 countries and in the bottom 10 in terms of political empowerment in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for 2021, the government has set a goal of raising the proportion of women running in national elections to 35% by 2025.

Meanwhile, 97 new faces joined the Lower House following the election, up 41 from 56 in the previous poll and accounting for 20.9% of the 465 seats.

The opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), which has risen to the third-largest party in the chamber, has 27 rookies, making up 65.9% of its 41 lawmakers.

The average age of the Lower House members was 55.5, up slightly from 54.7 in 2017. By party, the minor opposition Reiwa Shinsengumi was the youngest at 47.3, while the Ishin and the Democratic Party for the People were over 49.

The average ages for the Lower House members of the LDP, its coalition partner Komeito and the CDP were all in their 50s. That for the Japanese Communist Party was higher at 62.3.

Former local government chiefs and assembly members made up the largest proportion among the 465 members at 157, or 33.8%, followed by 74 former secretaries of lawmakers, or 15.9%, and 72 former bureaucrats at 15.5%. The rest included company workers, political party officials, media people, lawyers and doctors.

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