Japan had the lowest share of women studying science among 36 comparable Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries in 2019, the organization's latest annual report has shown.

OECD pointed out Japan's significant gender gap in the areas collectively termed STEM, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and said the country needs to inspire women to pursue these studies.

Photo taken Nov. 1, 2018, shows the laboratory of a Nobel Prize-winning scientist in Kyoto, western Japan. (Kyodo)

Among STEM fields, the proportion of women entering natural sciences, mathematics and statistics at the tertiary education level in Japan was at 27 percent, far below the OECD average of 52 percent, according to their Education at a Glance 2021 report.

The report, released in mid-September, examined the ratio of females enrolled in tertiary education in 2019, with Japan reporting its ratio for fiscal 2018 ended March 2019.

Slovakia had the highest share at 65 percent, followed by Poland at 63 percent. The Czech Republic and Lithuania were both at 60 percent.

Japan lagged largely behind the second-lowest Belgium, where the rate was at 40 percent.

In engineering, manufacturing and construction, women occupied only 16 percent in Japan, while the OECD average was 26 percent. The highest rate was 39 percent in Iceland, followed by Poland at 36 percent and Greece at 33 percent.

Japan also ranked at the bottom among 37 comparable OECD countries in terms of how much of national wealth was spent on educational institutions in 2018.

Public spending devoted to primary to tertiary educational institutions was 2.8 percent of their gross domestic products in Japan and Ireland, while the OECD average was 4.1 percent.

Norway committed the most at 6.4 percent. Costa Rica and Iceland were close behind, spending 6.2 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively. Among other countries, France spent 4.5 percent, the United States dedicated 4.1 percent and the United Kingdom invested 3.9 percent.

Between 2012 and 2018, public and total expenditure on primary to tertiary education increased on average at a lower rate than GDP across OECD countries, with the exception of Chile, Hungary and Iceland.