TOKYO, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Less than 10 percent of Japanese parliamentarians of the lower house are women, a ratio lower than those of legislative assemblies in Saudi Arabia or South Sudan.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union, a global organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, ranked Japan 157th out of about 200 countries for women's representation, CNN reported on Thursday.
Mari Miura, a politics professor at Sophia University in Japan, said there is "no political will to increase women, and the system doesn't really favor female candidates."
Miura also said Japan is "one of the absolutely worst" among countries in Asia and wealthier nations when it comes to advancing women in politics.
That may be bad news for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been promoting women's advancements into politics, business and other areas by 2020.
Official Japanese data indicate women occupy less than 4 percent of senior government positions and women are a minority in Abe's cabinet.
Debate has ensued in Japan over whether to apply quotas to give women a better chance at securing top positions. But opponents have said such a move would be unfair, while other experts like Miura say the quota would not be an improvement without more specific policies.
Abe recently appointed Tomomi Inada as the first woman defense minister, and a woman lawmaker, Renho Murata, won the leadership of the main opposition party.
The prime minister has also criticized Japan's chauvinistic military culture and blamed male-centered values for the underrepresentation of women.