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Editorial: Results outweigh policy chatter in boosting women's role in society

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is often heard to remark, "In politics, the results are everything." So how about this result: In the 2016 Global Gender Gap Report, a global ranking on gender equality, Japan slid from 101st place out of 135 countries in 2012, to 111th place out of 144 countries in 2016.

Abe declared that he would change Japan by creating a society in which "all women can shine," participating actively in the workforce, and created a promotion office for this purpose.

However, compared with other countries where women's active participation in society has progressed, the clock seems to have stopped in Japan.

The number of working women has certainly increased, but many of these women are in non-regular employment, and the proportion of females in managerial positions has only barely improved, from 10 percent in 2005 to 13 percent in 2016. During the almost same period in France, the corresponding figure rose from 7 to 33 percent.

Probably one reason for the slow pace of improvement in Japan is that gender equality in the political sphere -- where policy measures are decided -- has not progressed.

The proportion of female legislators in the House of Representatives before it was dissolved for the Oct. 22 general election stood at just 9.3 percent, placing Japan 165th out of 193 countries. When female legislators take their children to day care in government vehicles, or when they give birth while in office, they are criticized. There is a major gap between the situation in Japan and that in other countries like Norway, where male Cabinet members and legislators normally take 12 weeks of childcare leave.

Recently in Japan, a bill on promoting gender equality in the political sphere was finally submitted to the Diet. But the bill was scrapped when the lower house was dissolved for an election. This goes to show what a low priority the issue has been given in Japanese politics.

The least the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) could have done was to take the initiative and increase the number of female candidates standing for the party. But the number of women on the LDP ticket for this weekend's election stands at a meager 25, or just 8 percent of the total -- lower than the 42 (12 percent) recorded during the previous general election.

If, for example, the LDP stopped candidates from standing both for single-seat constituencies and proportional representation districts, and placed women high on its proportional representation list, then it could significantly increase the proportion of female legislators who could be elected.

The fledgling Party of Hope founded by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has criticized current policy toward women. But even in that party, only 20 percent of the candidates are women.

It could be said that a factor in the extreme delay in providing political positions for more women is that citizens in general do not harbor much anger regarding this situation. Unfortunately, there are no major parties that have made around half of their candidates women, but the types of female candidates they are fielding can be compared. Rather than just examining election pledges, we should discern how much weight political parties are attaching to their lineups of female candidates.

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