A New Twist in Female Political Representation in Japan

March 8, 2024 | 12:00PM - 1:30PM
Centre for the Study of Global Japan, Government & politics, East Asia

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This event will take place in-person at Room 208N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place, Toronto, ON, M5S 3K7
Japan is notorious for its gender inequality. Most foreign media coverage on Japanese women tend to be about how women are badly treated in Japan.  Gender inequality is visible in politics too. Comparatively speaking, the share of women in Japan’s Diet is among the lowest in advanced democracies. However, in recent decades, the share of women in politics has been increasing particularly in urban areas. For instance, the city assemblies in Tokyo’s twenty-three special districts have seen a big increase in the share of women. Suginami city assembly composition has reached gender parity (50% of assembly members are women) and has a female mayor. Furthermore, female mayoral candidates are no longer uncommon in Tokyo.  When one looks at the demographic composition of Tokyo’s city assemblies, Japanese politics does not look too different from Western liberal democracies.  Why does politics in Tokyo look so different from the national level politics? The presentation is based on an analysis of micro-data of all candidates who ran in the last four cycles of local politics in Tokyo. Our findings show that women are more electable than men despite their relative lack of political capital. Successful female candidates are compensating for their lack of political capital with their high human capital attributes. We argue that the reason why high human capital women are successfully running for local office in Tokyo reflects persistent glass ceilings in both politics and labor market.
Margarita Estévez-Abe is McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University.  She taught at Harvard University before joining Syracuse and served as the first chair of Public Policy at Collegio Carlo Alberto in Turin, Italy. Her research explores the intersection of welfare states, gender and the models of capitalism.  She’s the author of the award-winning book on Welfare Capitalism in Postwar Japan (Cambridge University Press), the editor of Outsourcing of Domestic and Care Work (Special Issue, Social Politics) and Beyond Familialism (Special Issue, Journal of European Social Policy). She’s finishing a monograph on marriage migrants in East Asia entitled Globalizing the Family: Gender and Citizenship in Japan South Korea and Taiwan.
Organized by the Centre for the Study of Global Japan and the Centre for Global Social Policy, University of Toronto.
Centre for the Study of Global Japan, Government & politics, East Asia
Sophie Bourret-Klein


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Margarita Estevez-Abe

Associate Professor, Political Science, Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University

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Ito Peng (Moderator)

Professor and Canada Research Chair in Global Social Policy, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto