Sunday, December 14, 2014

Election 2014: Close the Gender Gap in the Diet (and Solve the Heirloom Turkey Conundrum)? Why, Abenomics, of Course

A Bloomberg editor sent out a group email sharing a report on a race between two female candidates in Niigata, with the comment that “Abe seems desperate to get at least some more women in parliament, with both he and Suga making trips up there to support the LDP hopeful.” The following was my response:

Of course it could be part of a gender-free effort to shore up vulnerable incumbents.

Sidebar: One reason for the paucity of women in the Diet--much worse than even South Korea--is the preponderance of heirloom turkeys there. In Japan, spouses must adopt the same legal surname, and it is usually the wives who give up their pre-marriage surnames, in contrast to the Chinese and Korean custom of all spouses maintaining their pre-marriage surnames. My guess is that more Diet members would be willing to pass on their sinecures to their female offspring (and their koenkais more accepting)  if they were able to routinely keep their pre-marriage surnames. (Note, for example, that Yuko Obuchi's husband changed his surname.) Of course the fundamental cause of the heirloom turkey and name-changing outcomes both stem from the same paternalistic social customs. Still, if Japanese society had gone full-China and adopted their surname custom (the vast majority of Japanese did not have surnames until the Meiji Restoration), I strongly suspect that we would have a few more women in the Diet.

Come to think of it, culling the rafters of heirloom turkeys would be even more helpful. Perhaps Abenomics should include the establishment of the lobbying industry as an incentive to let go of Diets. Designate Nagatacho as a special zone, where bribery will be decriminalized for registered lobbyists and their clients. Short of that, the Abe administration could set a goal for each political parties to make 30% or more of its Diet members women by 2020. To give the goal some teeth, just unseat male Diet members of each party until it reaches the 30% threshold. It's only fair; after all, it's Mr. Abe who is claiming that this election is a referendum on Abenomics. Practice what you preach, Mr. Abe.

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