Gender, Informal Institutions and Political Representation in Mixed (Parallel) Systems: Japan, Korea and Taiwan in Perspective

Panel Code

Despite its phenomenal economic achievement during the post world war II era, Northeast Asia has been far behind the global trend in promoting women’s political representation. Authoritarian regimes in Korea, Taiwan and China, and Japan’s one party predominant system throughout the post-war era partly explain this lag in democratization.However, a closer look sheds light on the significant diversity across the region. Taiwan is by far the most advanced, with women’s share in the national legislature closest to parity (over 38%), while Korea has stagnated below 20% elected women, and women’s representation in Japan remains chronically situated at less than 10% of the Lower House seats. Given the similar social and cultural status of women and the mixed electoral systems, formal institutions such as electoral system and quota regulation do not explain fully the disparity in women’s representation within legislative politics in these countries. What explains such this variety across similarly-situated societies all of which use the mixed electoral system? For the first time gender and politics scholars in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan have come together to conduct a comparative research survey with a view to solving several puzzles. By systematically comparing women’s pathways to elected politics, hurdles women face in the run-up to election, as well as gender differences in their legislative activities, our survey questionnaires to men and women in the parliaments of all three countries, and qualitative interviews delve into more nuanced personal experiences facing MPs in each country, and in light of different political orientations. Our qualitative and quantitative data together help explain how formal and informal institutions in male dominated legislative politics interact to reinforce informal barriers against women and minorities at various stages of legislative politics. This panel is organized to present the results to date from our three-year collaborative research project. Given the different stage of women’s descriptive representation in each country, favouring a comparative approach, the papers will address topics such as resistance to quota adoption (Japan), persistence of male dominance despite quotas (Korea), and the interaction of quota and non-quota pathways to politics for women’s political careers (Taiwan).