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Dissertation Project Schwarte (Abstract)

Female Political Representation in Japan

(Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Gabriele Vogt, LMU)


Japan continuously scores low in terms of gender equality in international comparison. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 published by the World Economic Forum, Japan placed 120 out of 156 countries with imparity being highest in the categories ‘economic participation and opportunity’ and ‘political empowerment’. Even though the government plans to increase female political representation in national and local politics to 30 percent or more within the next decade, only 9.9 percent of assembly seats at the national level and 10.6 percent of seats at the local level were occupied by women in 2020. When looking at the reasons behind the lack of women in politics, various structural and cultural barriers emerge that negatively influence women’s political representation in Japan. On top of that most political parties have been reluctant to actively recruit more women, implement quotas, and successfully support female candidates in elections through favorable party list placements.

The lack of women in leadership positions is evident among mayors as well: as of August 2021, there are only 41 women in executive positions such as governor or mayor. Of the 47 governors two are female and out of 1,741 mayors only 39 are women. Despite this being a marginally low proportion of 2.2 percent, the number of female mayors has seen a steady increase in the two decades after 2000. Since in-depth studies of local female politicians are missing from the discourse of women in Japanese politics, this PhD thesis will focus on women in local politics at the level of cities, towns, and villages. The objective of this research project is to analyze if and how the increase in female mayors leads to the adoption of more feminist policies in the respective constituencies. To what extent do these politicians use their political power to shed light onto ‘female issues’ and pursue a feminist agenda? What role does gender play in their work as a politician? And how do the female candidates present themselves during election campaigns and in case of victory during their time in office?