TOKYO (Reuters) - A baby brought into a Japanese municipal assembly chamber by his lawmaker mother was promptly ejected because his presence was against the rules, an official said on Friday, highlighting the hurdles faced by working women in Japan.
Yuka Ogata, a member of the Kumamoto city assembly, brought her seven-month-old son into the chamber on Wednesday but she was asked to take him out because of a rule limiting attendance to assembly members, city official Naoya Oshima said.
Ogata tried to stay but the speaker of the assembly eventually persuaded her to take the infant out. She handed him over to a babysitter and returned.
“I wanted to highlight the difficulties facing women who are trying to juggle their careers and raise children,” the 42-year-old Ogata was quoted by the Asahi Shimbun daily as saying.
Ogata was not immediately available for comment.
Economists say given Japan’s rapidly ageing population, bringing women into the workforce is essential.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made increasing the number of women workers a key part of his economic plan, pledging, among various measures, to increase daycare for children.
He told the United Nations in 2013 that he would create “a society where women can shine”, but little progress has been made.
Japan ranked 114 out of 144 in the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap report, falling 13 places since Abe took power.
Abe appointed only two women to ministerial posts in a cabinet reshuffle in August, down from three and five respectively in his previous two cabinets.
Only 14 percent of Japan’s lawmakers are women.
Japanese labour law has no official system in place for maternity or parental leave for politicians.
In 2000, a national lawmaker in Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party took three days off from parliament to give birth, prompting the legislature to allow maternity leave for members.
A total of 12 lawmakers have taken advantage of the time off, being granted up to three months of maternity leave at the most, the Mainichi Shimbun daily reported this year.
Reporting by Linda Sieg; Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Robert Birsel