Researchers from the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) recently published an article entitled “The relationship between female and younger legislative representation and performance on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” that finds a positive correlation between female and youth legislative representation and performance on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The article will appear in Environmental Research Letters, and was authored by Nobue Amanuma, Deputy Director of the Integrated Sustainability Centre (IGES), Eric Zusman, Director of the Integrated Sustainability Centre (IGES), and Dewi Langlet, Staff Scientist, Evolutionary, Cell Biology and Symbiosis Unit (OIST).
Although the article’s findings are important for all countries, they may be particularly relevant to Japan. Japan ranks 133rd out of 146 countries in terms of the ratio of female members of the Diet ("Global Gender Gap Report 2022" World Economic Forum) and ranks first out of 30 countries in terms of the average age of cabinet members at 62.4 years. ("Government at a Glance 2021 'Average age of cabinet members’” OECD). While it is understood that legislatures can affect the SDGs generally, there has been little research on the relationship between the increasing number of women and younger people in the legislature and SDG performance specifically. IGES and OIST hope that the findings of this report spark efforts to increase diversity in Japan's legislature.
While the study’s data analytic methods did not make it possible to say why countries with more female and younger members in parliament perform better on the SDGs, the positive correlation points to the possibility that institutional reforms and other measures that send more women and youth to parliament may be beneficial. In particular, there is a strong correlation with socioeconomic goals such as Goal 1 (End Poverty), Goal 2 (Zero Hunger) and Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-Being). On the other hand, in developed countries such as Japan, these socioeconomic goals often have a trade-off relationship with environmental goals such as Goal 13 (Climate Action), Goal 14 (Life below Water), and Goal 15 (Life on Land). The promotion of women and youth may need to be combined with institutional and policy reforms that change the socioeconomic and environmental trade-offs into synergies.
Further research will clarify these causal relationships and the potential for the policies and diverse stakeholder participation to create synergies rather than trade-offs between socioeconomic and environmental goals.
* This research was supported by the Environment Research and Technology Development Fund [JPMEERF20221M03] of the Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency provided by the Ministry of the Environment of Japan, JSPS KAKENHI Grant number 23K05942 to Dewi Langlet.