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Women 2000, Japan NGO Alternative Report
by Japan NGO Report Preparatory Committee, 1999.08.13
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G. Women in Power and Decision-making

  1. The Present Status of Women in the Government and Governmental Bodies
  2. The Present Condition of Women in Political Parties
  3. Private Sector, Trade Unions, Employers' Organizations, Sub-regional and Regional Bodies
  4. The Present Conditions of NGOs and NPOs
  5. Vision for the Future
    (1) Exertion of Further Efforts for Awareness Building to Attain the "Critical Mass"
    (2) Adoption and Attainment of the Targets by Positive Action in All Fields and Monitoring of their Progress
    (3) Other Measures to Increase Women's Participation in Political Decision-Making

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1. The Present Status of Women in the Government and Governmental Bodies

      Japan is still far from achieving the target (decided by the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategy and endorsed by the UN Economic and Social Council in 1985) of "having 30% women in positions at decision-making levels by 1995". The Government of Japan has been slowly exerting efforts to achieve this target, but it should be taking more vigorous and specific measures.

      As for the representation of women in national government advisory council and committees in May 1996, the Headquarters for the Promotion of Gender Equality located in the Prime Minister's Office, adopted a target of 30% representation of women by 2006. It endeavors to attain 20% representation by the end of the year 2000 as an interim step.

      In September 1998, women accounted for 18.3% of national advisory council and committees. Depending upon the nature of such bodies , the percentage of female representation varies. Many local governments also set the target of 30% female representation in their advisory council and committees, but have not yet reached the target.

      According to National Personnel Authority , the proportion of women in national public service in the year 1997 was 19.9%. Regarding the proportion of woman in managerial posts in national public service, no statistics have been compiled. As for administrative and supervisory posts in national public service, excluding state universities and taxation offices, the proportion of women in posts such as section chiefs and above, in salary grades from 9 to 11, was a mere 1.7% (numbering 94 out of 7,894). It was as recent as 1996 that the first woman was appointed as Administrative Vice Minister in the Ministry of Labor.

      The National Personnel Authority has no official guideline regarding the recruitment or promotion of woman officials in each ministry or government agency, but it should officially set the target at 30%.

      Since 1996 onward the Cabinet has had only one woman minister at any one time. (Now only the Postal Service Minister is a woman). It has recently become rather customary to appoint women to the post of Parliamentary Vice-Minister.

      The Platform for Action says the Government should "take measures, in electoral systems to encourage political parties to integrate women in elective or non-elective public positions in order to achieve the same proportion of men and women in such positions". The Government of Japan, however, has not taken any such measures on the grounds of the separation of powers of legislative and executive bodies.

      Since 1994 the new electoral system of proportional representation coupled with the single seat constituency system has been implemented in the House of Representatives instead of the former medium constituency system. The system of proportional representation is regarded by some political parties as advantageous for the women and other minority candidates. Now the seats allocated for proportional representation are 200 out of 500 for the House of Representatives (Lower House) and 100 out of 252 for the House of Councilors (Upper House), constituting40% of the total seats of both Houses.

      Some political parties have tried to increase their elected women members by placing women candidates in the upper part of their prioritized lists of candidates or by placing the names of women and men candidates alternately in their prioritized lists, but these efforts are not sufficient.

      Under the Political Party State Subsidy system enacted in 1994, the subsidy is distributed in accordance with the number of Diet members belonging to the political party concerned. As a result, an overwhelmingly large number of male Diet members receive subsidy benefits. The female Diet members also benefit from the subsidy, but the extent of benefits women can get from the system is very much limited because of the small number of female Diet members. At least 30% of the state subsidy should be used for the exploration of women candidates for elections and the necessary training given to them. (This is the proposition made at the IPU Conference in India in 1997.)

      At present the women members of the Lower House number 25 out of 500 accounting for only 5% of the total members. (The IPU ranking of the Japanese Lower House: 123rd in the world.) Those in Upper House number 43 or 17.1% of the 252 total members. (IPU ranking: 20th in the world.)

      "The Bill to Reduce the Number of the Lower House Seats to be Elected under the Proportional Representation System by 50 from the Present 200" was submitted to the National Diet on 23 June 1999 by the ruling Jimin-to and Jiyu-to. However, an increase in the number to be elected by the proportional representaion system should be undertaken through a reform of the existing electoral system.

      At present, the right to vote is given to men and women aged 20 years and over. The right to be elected as a Lower Hose member or as the head of a city, town or village is given to men and women aged 25 years and over. The right to be elected as an Upper House member or a Governor is given to men and women aged 30 years and over. This situation limits the political participation of young men and young women. The age of eligibility for voting and the right to be elected should be lowered to 18 just as in many other countries in the world.

      At present, there are 3 women city mayors and 3 women heads of towns or villages, totaling 6 throughout Japan. So far there has never been a woman Governor. The proportion of women members in local assemblies is still extremely small, constituting only 7%. It is necessary for both national and local governments to take effective measures to encourage the participation of women in political decision-making processes at both national and local levels.

      The government of Japan publishes the "White Paper on Gender Equality in Decision-making Processes, " but it is regrettably full of abstract expressions. It should give clear descriptions of the targets to be attained, and the expected dates for achieving the targets, annual numbers and rates of progress, analysis of the situation, and measures to be taken to achieve further progress. It should also give the actual number of woman participants in each of the decision-making processes concerned.

      It is one step forward in that the statistical date concerning the officials of each ministry and government agency show the number of women officials in parenthesis, but there is no graphical representation of the present status and the targets to be attained in Japan in accordance with the Platform for Action. It is urgent that the Government compiles manages and publicizes relevant digital date. The establishment of a monitoring system is also urgently needed.

      As for the Government's support to non-governmental organizations and research institutes conducting studies on women's participation in, and impact on, decision-making environment, the state-operated Ochanomizu Women's college established the "Institute for Gender Study." Similar study centers established either by public or private university number about 10 at present.

      In the private sector, similar studies and research have been conducted by such NGOs as Ichikawa Fusae Kinennkai (Memorial Association), Alliance of Feminist Representatives, Beijing JAC (Japan Accountability Caucus) and other NGOs born after the Beijing Conference and many other research and study groups set up by private individuals. However, they are not regularly supported by the Government. NGOs should approach the Government more assertively to get support.

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2. The Present Condition of Women in Political Parties

      The following is based on the "Report on the Study of the Political Parties' Replies to the Questionnaire on their Policies regarding Women" conducted by "Beijing JAC"in June 1998.

      The proportion of women among the Party members then were as follows; The Komei-to showed the highest record with 47.1%, followed by 40.5% of the Kyosan-to, 38.3% of the Jimin-to and about 30% of the Shamin-to. There is no such tabulation of records regarding the Minsyu-to, Jiyu-to , & Shinto-Heiwa.

English names of the political parties concerned:
Jimin-to: Liberal Democratic Party Shamin-to: Social Democratic Party
Minshu-to: Democratic Party of Japan Komei-to: Komei
Jiyu-to: Liberal Party Shinto-Heiwa: New Peace Party
Kyousan-to: Japanese Communist Party    

      In their replies, no political parties referred to any measures taken to increase women members. Only the Kyosan-to mentioned "the need to assist its women members' activities and growth."

      As for women appointments to the parties' decision-making structures, the proportion of women in decision-making groups in each political party was as follows: 6.7% for Jimin-to, 9.1% for Minshu-to, 7.7% for Jiyu-to, 17.6% for Kyosan-to, 24.0% for Shamin-to, 5.0% for Komei-to and 10.5% for Shinto-Heiwa. The average for all political parties surveyed was 14%.

      The proportion of women in the party groups for policy formulation weree as follow: 4.5% for Jimin-to, 18.2% for Minshu-to, 5.8% for Jiyu-to, 14.3% for Kyosan-to, 9.1% for Shamin-to, 16.7% for Komei-to, and 28.6% for Shinto-Heiwa, the average being only 9%.

      Only the Kyosan-to and Shamin-to mentioned the "positive promotion of women to the party's leadership posts" as one of the most important policies for women pursued by them in the last 5 years. The Jimin-to also referred to "the promotion of women to leadership posts" as one of its important policies. However, as the number of its women parliamentarians has been extremely small, it has not shown any substantial result in this respect, though it has been in power for over 50 years.

      The number and the proportion of women parliamentarians of each political party in the Lower and Upper House (House of Representatives and House of Councilors) are given below.

*Shinto-Heiwa was merged into the Komei-to in November 1998.
Political Parties House of Representatives House of Councilors
Number of Women    %    Number of Women %

      The wording: "positive selection of women in the nomination of candidates for election" has been clearly spelled out in the party policy documents of such political parties, as Minsyu-to, Kyosan-to and Shamin-to. Among such political parties, Minshu-to and Shamin-to put the names of female and male candidates alternately up to the fourth rank in their prioritized lists of candidates for proportional representation in the Upper House election in 1998. There has been no political party which has actually implemented any quota system though there was once a political party which announced the adoption of a quota system, but the party disbanded before actually implementing the system.

      The endeavors of political parties to increase the number of women member of parliament was started in 1993 by the now-extinct political party called Nihon-Shin-to (Japanese New Party) in the form of the political school for women. After the disbandment of the Nihon-Shin-to, the school was succeeded by the Shinshin-to (New Frontier Party) (also extinct now) and then by the Minshu-to.

      In 1998 Shamin-to also started a similar endeavor by opening a political school for women. Minsyu-to recently announced the open recruitment of women candidates from the general public for the election of the National Diet and its provision of an election campaign fund for the women candidates so recruited by the party.

      As for the exploration and training of women candidates for local assembly election, few political parties have undertaken this, while an increasing number of super-partisan women's NGOs have started so-called "back-up school" to train possible women candidates for local assemblies. Kyosan-to has the largest number of women local assembly members at 954, constituting 24.2% of the total number of local assembly members elected from this party. The second-ranking political party In terms of the number of women local assembly is the Komei-to with 357, constituting 12.6% of the total number of local assembly members elected from this party. Such a phenomenon has stemmed from the fact that these two political parties have solid local party structures. As for Jimin-to, its local organizational set-up is the mere conglomeration of groups supporting the present National Diet members and local assembly members of Jimin-to. Neither national-level nor local-level supporting organization exerts serious efforts in the positive support of women candidates in local elections.

      Each political party actively made various propositions to improve the Government-sponsored Bill for the Creation of a Gender Equal Society in support of its enactment. Excepting the Jiyu-to, each party has established an internal women's bureau or division, but it has not adopted any target in order to achieve an increase in women's participation in its other internal bureaus and divisions. Each party should take more powerful measures to make not only its female members but also its male members and leaders realize the need to increase women's participation in its decision-making groups.

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3. Private Sector, Trade Unions, Employers' Organizations, Sub-regional and Regional Bodies

      Neither employers' organizations nor trade unions understand the importance of, nor the concept Itself of "critical mass " of women leaders and executives In decision-making groups.

      The Keidanren (federation of Economic Organizations of Japan) in February 1995 published a report entitled: "Society changes. So let us change our companies by changing the modalities of work by men and women". The report was compiled by the Panel on Women's Social Participation of its Social Affairs Bureau. The report is based on its study of replies to its questionnaires submitted by the member companies of the Keidanren. It contains the proposition to build up the new modalities of work by men and women, refers to the present conditions, and future tasks pertaining to the work environment. In February 1997, the Panel compiled its "Report on the Outline of the Follow-up Study Results and Tasks for the Future." These are intended only to enlighten employers and society at large. How to implement its proposition in a concrete manner is left to the discretion of each member company.

      At the HQ of the Rengo (Confederation of Trade Union of Japan) the proportion of women in its Central Executive Board is only 7.7% at present. According to the "Report on the National-wide Survey of Trade Unions" conducted by the Ministry of Labor in 1993, the average number of women in the executive boards of industrial trade unions was 1.5. After 1993 no relevant data is available. In the trade unions affiliated with the Rengo the average of women's participation in their executive boards remained at5% from 1995 to 1998, but due to their efforts to increase the rate, it rose to 6.5% in February 1999. It is still very low, however, considering the rate of women's unionization now amounts to approximately 27%.

      In the last 5 years, regional women's groups (particularly localn women's conferences) which participated in the Beijing NGO Forum have become increasingly active, using the Women's Centers established by local governments as the sites of their activities. Their activities include: compiling local gender-disaggregated statistics: conducting studies by distribution of, and compilation of the replies to, their questionnaires; making proposition for the local plan of action for gender equality to be worked out by local government, etc.       However, such activities have not been visible to citizens at large. In actuality, civic groups organized by the residents of small local communities tend to exclude women who would express their opinions frankly in any decision-making body. They seemingly prefer to choose and include women who are obedient as the members of their decision-making bodies. As for the presidency of such civic groups, the same president remains in the post for a very long time after assuming the presidency. There has been the tendency for such presidents to be chosen as the member representing the region concerned in the advisory councils or committees of the local governments, regardless of the qualifications required for membership. The women members who speak out on the basis of their expertise are very often criticized by male citizens and local government officials (mainly men) who have the deeply-engrained, traditional concept of sex role differentiation.

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4. The Present Conditions of NGOs and NPOs

      The NPOs organized by the handicapped and/or their families in and around urban areas have been active, exerting efforts for the realization of reproductive health rights. They held mutual-study meetings and lobbying with National Diet members to reflect their opinions in the revision of the old Eugenic Protection Law. They succeeded in eliminating the eugenic provisions from the old law and changing its name to the Maternity Protection Law.

      Through assistance to self-sustenance and peer counseling, they have been endeavoring to become empowered for self-determination. To attain this objective they elected women members to local assemblies.

      For the unified local elections In 1995, the movement to increase women members in local assemblies started. In 1994 Ichikawa Fusae Kinenkai established the "Center to Promote Women's Involvement in Politics." The Center effectively helped women aspiring to become politicians, and those who support them, by giving them practical training.

      In 1995 the Alliance of Feminist Representatives held a symposium named "when hens sing, the nation will prosper." Many other women's groups inspired by the Beijing Conference started to campaign for increasing women parliamentarians. In many localities throughout Japan, "back-up schools" for women's participation In political decision-making were started mainly by women citizens with the slogan: "Let us send women to local assemblies and the National Diet." The "Women's Solidarity Foundation" started its work in 1998 to encourage women's groups working for the increase of women members in local assemblies through financial and other forms of assistance. In 1999 the "WIN WIN" was organized to provide election campaign funds for the selected women candidates for the National Diet.

      Toward the 1999 unified local election, the articles urging the increase of women members in local assemblies appeared in various newspapers. Most of these articles were written by women reporters. Encouraged and animated by such media coverage, women candidates for local assemblies, including those who became confident and brave as a result of their training in "back-up schools," increased in number unprecedentedly since the Japanese women's acquisition of suffrage. As a result, the rate of women elected to local assemblies rose to 7%. Most of them are super-partisan.

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5. Vision for the Future

(1)Exertion of Further Efforts for Awareness Building to Attain the "Critical Mass"

      If there is no women in decision-making bodies or if there is only an extremely small number of women participating in decision-making bodies, any decisions made in such bodies cannot be said to be fair and equitable, reflecting the needs of all people including women. It is necessary to build awareness that the decisions made only by men are not adequate.

      The assertion that decisions must be made by both men and women on equal footing must be vigorously made in all organizations and in all localities to attain the target of at least 30% for women's participation in decision-making bodies, which the Japanese Government agreed to in Nairobi in 1985.

(2)Adoption and Attainment of the Targets by Positive Action in All Fields and Monitoring of their Progress

      National and local governments and other public entities should clarify the present status of women's participation in all decision-making bodies with scientific, gender-disaggregated statistics and endeavor to eliminate the factors impeding women's participation and promotion.

      Positive action should be taken to set the target and monitor the process of attaining the targets (including the establishment of monitoring machinery) for recruitment and promotion of officials, expansion of areas of work, and increase of women members in advisory bodies. For those who failed to take positive action, penalties must be provided in the Equal Employment Opportunity Law and the Basic Law for the Creation of Gender Equal Society.

(3)Other Measures to Increase Women's Participation in Political Decision-Making

      Measures should be taken for the expansion of the proportional representation system to increase the number of women Diet members elected by this system and positive action concerning the use of the state subsidy for political parties for the benefit of more women. Adequate financial assistance should be extended to private, civic groups working for the increase of women members in local assemblies and the National Diet.

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