By Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO, Sept 13 (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida unveiled a fresh cabinet line-up on Wednesday that features five women, but falls short of female representation seen in most other G7 nations, although it matches a domestic tally twice before achieved.
Women now account for a quarter of the cabinet members, for a figure roughly on par with the female ratio in Italy’s cabinet, for instance, but Japan lags far behind other members of the Group of Seven developed economies.
Four of Kishida’s appointments are new to cabinet, with the only exception being Economic Security Minister Sanae Takaichi, a heavyweight in his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), who has previously run for its top post, and by extension, the top job.
Japan needs to send more women to parliament to have more balanced gender representation at the top, said Koichi Nakano, a specialist in comparative politics at Sophia University in Tokyo.
“You have to simply have a wider pool of eligible and qualified women, and only having 10 percent of lawmakers from the female sex is not enough,” he added, saying that a rigorous quota system was one solution.
“Many people in Japan think of a quota system as unfair and biased,” Nakano said. “But it’s the other way around. The existing system gives too much privilege to men, and particularly men from political dynasties.”
Japan’s underrepresentation of women in politics was on full display in June when it hosted a G7 ministerial meeting on gender equality and women’s empowerment, at which Tokyo was the only member represented by a male minister.
The World Economic Forum rated Japan 125th among 143 countries for gender parity in a report this year, spurring Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno to pledge to push for more social participation by women, especially in politics.
Japan’s gender parity in political empowerment was among the world’s lowest, ranking 138, behind China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
In June, Kishida’s ruling LDP said it aimed to nearly triple the number of its women lawmakers to 30% in the next decade, through steps such as offering babysitting arrangements and a fund to support female candidates.
On Wednesday, besides re-appointing Takaichi to the economic security role, Kishida named former justice minister Yoko Kamikawa as foreign minister, and three others to ministerial posts for the first time.
They are Ayuko Kato, minister overseeing children-related policies; Hanako Jimi, a minister in charge of Okinawa and Northern Territories affairs; and Reconstruction Minister Shinako Tsuchiya.
Before Kishida, cabinets formed in 2001 by then-prime minister Junichiro Koizumi and in 2014, by Shinzo Abe, had five female ministers each.