Hostess workers in Japan – illegal sex work or deserving a visa?

Hostess bars and clubs in Tokyo’s Kabuki-cho

by Kyle Waylyszyn

The women who work as hostess workers work just like you and me, but their jobs come with a heavy stigma that surrounds their line of work. When you hear “hostess worker” or hear about them, they are never portrayed in a very positive light. The job description of a hostess, if you don’t know, is to entertain their male customers by doing things like talking, drinking, dancing and other things. Of course, there are some places that offer services greater than what the majority will not do, which is more sexual in nature, but this isn’t the norm.

Sociologist Rhacel Parreñas

The norm is that these women choose to take these jobs of their own free will, although sometimes out of necessity when giving the choice to either stay in their home country and make a far less salary or work as a hostess. Rhacel Parreñas has conducted firsthand research about this topic, and Parreñas says “No one lied to them and explicitly told them that they would only be singing and dancing on stage.” “They were quite adamant,” Parreñas says, “that they weren’t prostitutes.” Rather, she describes the work of hostessing as “commercial flirtation” through which women work to “bolster the masculinity” of their customers. They typically make money for the club owners to whom their labor is contracted by selling men drinks, not sexual acts.”

Even though that these women took these jobs of their own accord, the Japanese government was not pleased with being ranked the highest employers of “sex trade” workers as they were publicized as. In 2004, the Japanese government began changed the visa laws and enforced stricter requirements for the entertainers visa. This caused these women to lose the valuable income need to support their families, but the important numbers the government seen was that the hostess workers dropped down to only approximately 8,607 in 2006 from the 2004 statistic of 82,741 workers.

In light of the action things that go on and the willingness of these women should there be an entertainer’s visa specifically for hostess workers? These women have a right to make a living just like every other human on this planet, so why can’t they work as a hostess legally in a country that seems to have a demand for it? The morality of these jobs maybe the most prominent reason seeing as it doesn’t just involve the person that attends these places, but also the country that allows such unmoral and socially awkward things to happen as a legal business. Think about it would you choose a country to visit that just legalized commercial flirtation, if the stigma that everyone truly though about it was that it is actually houses of ill repute?

Reference

Parreñas, Rhacel. The ‘indentured mobility’ of migrant Filipina hostesses  http://gender.stanford.edu/news/2011/‘indentured-mobility’-migrant-filipina-hostesses

Japanese Women in the Workforce

by Olivia Katherine Parker

Due to Japan’s conservative and traditional society, most Japanese women have played the role of wife and mother instead of pursuing careers. The common ideal for young women within Japan is to marry a salary worker and to raise a family. Oftentimes, Japanese women do not plan to pursue a career because the challenge of raising children is enough for them.

Japanese women also face a large amount of pressure from society. Not only must a wife cook her husband meals and make him bento lunch boxes, but she must also care for her children, dress them, keep a tidy house, make sure the children get to school on time, make dinner, bathe the children, tuck them into bed, satisfy her husband, and then plan for the next day. The vicious yet “rewarding” cycle of motherhood doesn’t leave much room for a career let alone a part time job.

Since 1990 around 50% of all Japanese women have participated in the paid labor force, however, they leave due to factors such as marriage, child birth, or to assume the role as caretaker. Over two-thirds of Japanese women leave their jobs when they have children and don’t come back. If a woman returns to the workforce after having children, it is usually 5-10 years after the birth of her first child and instead of seeking out a career the majority of women take on part time jobs for extra income.

Japanese companies notoriously under pay their female employees. Women roughly earn 60% as much as men and very few women hold positions of authority such as manager or CEO. On top of that many female employees receive fewer benefits and smaller insurance policies within companies. This makes the allure of a career less enticing and deters many women. For most, job security is crucial and very hard to find.

Recently, Japan’s birth rate is on the decline. In theory this should not make sense. Women are staying home to fulfill the role as housewife so that should result in a higher or stabilized birth rate. Along with a declining birth rate Japan is also facing problems such as longer life expectancies and an increasing elderly population resulting in an economic recession. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to boost Japan’s economy by encouraging more women to join the workforce. However, Japan is also facing a child care crisis. Women who want to return to the workforce are faced with the difficulty of finding care for their children. Day care centers are often looked down upon by Japanese society because a child is not “receiving enough maternal care”. The Japanese perspective or normality is to see a mother with her child instead of in temporary care. So if a woman wants to come back to work after fulfilling her role in Japanese society as a mother but faces criticism and backlash by placing her child in day care (assuming she even finds a day care) it only perpetuates Japan’s contradictory views of women.

Many people believe that Japanese society and culture must change before women can be seen as equal in the work place. Societal pressure, stigmas, and sexism are so ingrained in Japanese culture that it could take decades or generations before a significant change can be seen.

Gender Inequality

by Michael McDonnell

The Irish constitution enacted in 1937 states that:

“1° the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.

2° The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

These declarations, though strongly criticised, are still in place today. I feel they give a good indication of the traditional Catholic views that influenced the policies of the state at its inception. The Ireland of today is quite different. In a 2014 survey by The World Economic Forum, Ireland was ranked 8th out of 142 countries on the global gender gap. This is calculated by examining the pay, health, education, and economic and political participation. As of 2013, 47% of workers are female, making up 55% of women. Half of women with children are working.

However, there are still many problems regarding gender inequality to be addressed. On average women are paid 12.6% less than men and women hold only 30% of managerial roles. Fewer than 20% of directors of large corporations are women.

One way Ireland is trying to address the gender imbalance is through the use of quotas. Currently, women only make up 19.4% of the Irish parliament placing Ireland 23rd out of the 27 EU member states for the representation of women in government. In 2012, legislation was enacted that required all political parties to ensure that women made up 30% of all candidates put forward in the next General Election and 40% within 7 years of that. Parties in breach of this quota risk having their government funding cut by half.

As no general election has occurred since been called since this legislation was enacted it remains to be seen what effect this will have on Irish politics. Much in the same way that quotas in business attempt to put women in managerial roles rather than just as board members, commentators have criticised the policy for not affecting local and regional elections. Women make up just 17% of local government bodies, where traditionally, politicians get their start and work towards the national legislature.

Japan is a lot like Ireland in the way it has seen the role of women in society, as a caregiver in the home. Japan has however been slower to address the gender gap in its society. Currently women make up just 1.2% of executives of Japanese companies and just 11% of the members of the Lower House of Parliament. Japanese Prime Minister Abe has set a goal to increase the number of women in executive positions in Japanese companies to 30% by 2020. This is not a legally binding directive but he has promised tax incentives for companies who reach the quota and has promised to increase the number of day care places and the length of family leave available to entice women to come back to work after having children. At the moment around 70% of women leave employment once they start a family.

A report from the Japanese Gender Equality Bureau in 2011 recommended the adoption of gender quotas in the political system and it was accepted by the cabinet. However, the report was non-binding and did not set specific quota levels.

Abe has said that “Women are Japan’s most underused resource,” and while Japan seems to be correcting this underutilisation it seems to be proceeding at a slower pace to other developed countries and to be missing the important issue of gender balance in political representation.

References

Buckley, F. 2013. Ireland offers an example of the way in which gender quotas can be implemented in national parliaments. EUROPP. Available at: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2013/11/29/ireland-serves-as-an-example-for-the-way-in-which-gender-quotas-can-be-implemented-in-national-parliaments/

Covert, B. 2014. Japan Sets Ambitious Goal For Increasing Women In Executive Suites. [online] Thinkprogress.org. Available at: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/01/02/3111731/japan-women-boards-goal/

Global Gender Gap | World Economic Forum. 2014. Global Gender Gap. Available at: http://www.weforum.org/issues/global-gender-gap#

Independent.ie. 2014. Gender equality is still a problem in many Irish board rooms – Independent.ie. Available at: http://www.independent.ie/business/irish/gender-equality-is-still-a-problem-in-many-irish-board-rooms-30527067.html

Ryan, S. 2014. Irish system has failed to provide higher number of women TDs: Taoiseach. TheJournal.ie. Available at: http://www.thejournal.ie/irish-system-has-failed-to-provide-higher-number-of-women-tds-taoiseach-332522-Jan2012/

Sanchanta, M. and Koh, Y. 2014. Japan Ponders Quotas for Women in Politics. WSJ. Available at: http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304569504576403401964052630

Taylor, C. 2014. Ireland ranked in eighth place in gender gap rankings. Irish Times. Available at: http://www.irishtimes.com/business/work/ireland-ranked-in-eighth-place-in-gender-gap-rankings-1.1979254

Racializing the white nose in Japan

What is it with white noses in Japan? Can Japan get past its seeming obsession with whites as long-nosed tengu?

Racializing white bodies is pretty much guaranteed to make a splash, as we saw with Toshiba’s bread maker (which was so good it would turn you into a white person), and ANA’s new international service (which again could turn you white).

Now we get Proctor and Gamble’s new ad for laundry detergent. The detergent smells so wonderful that it makes white people’s noses grow and flap around. These people were already white, so there’s no race-changing going on, just oddly morphing white faces.

So, what is it with white noses in Japan? As a white person with a somewhat prominent proboscis, I’d really like to know. And I’m definitely not buying this brand of detergent. The last thing I need is a bigger nose.

If your clothes stink, do white noses shrink? Cue the George Constanza reference …

For a more detailed look at this issue, visit Arudou Debito’s site, debito.org.

Official Nationalism and the Japanese Annexation of Korea

鮮, referring to Korea, and 内, literally meaning inside, representing Japan

Student post

In Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson argues that the emergence of “official nationalism” was, to a large degree, incited by the national movement in the American nations. Old dynastic groups felt the need to merge nation and empire in order to retain power that is competitive to that of establishing imagined communities. Among such empires, Anderson uses Japan as one example.

Japan officially annexed Korea in the year 1910, and the following 9 years were called the Military Police Reign Era. This era was characterized by massive violence, frequently involving deaths of civilians. The Military Police Reign Era was abruptly ended in March 1st of 1919 when, for the first time, the Korean public across the peninsula joined the demonstration to resist against repressive Japanese colonial rule. Realizing the limitation to rule by force, the government-general switched its policy to “cultural policy”, which was an attempt to break down Korean identity and culture (partly) through forbidding usage of Korean language. In schools, students were severely punished if they spoke in their language, and such punishment methods included forcing children to beat each other if one of them talked to the other in Korean. Through education and forced visit to shines (and many other ways), the government-general laid the foundation for full mobilization as the tide of war was gradually turning against Japan.

Kuniaki Koiso, Japanese Governor-General of Ko...

Kuniaki Koiso, Japanese Governor-General of Korea, implemented a draft of Koreans for wartime labor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Japanese imperialism continued even after the end of WWII. The period between 1945 and 1948 marked the most intensive education movement by the Koreans in Japan of all time. When the liberation was finally achieved in 1945, the Koreans in Japan immediately set up language schools to prepare for repatriation. However, the GHQ, along with the Japanese government, took oppressive measure to interrupt the Korean identity education enforced by the League of Koreans, a group that undertook the management of schools. In 1947, the occupation force issued the sentence commanding Korean schools to follow the direction of the Japanese administration, which basically denied the education right of Korean children. The second directive was issued in March 1948, which stated that the government will shut down the schools by force if the league does not accept the first order. Receiving the directive, enraged Koreans immediately gathered to organize demonstrations. In April 7th, around 10,000 participants in Kobe gathered in front of the school gate to block the police from entering the school. Police resorted to brutality against parents and teachers who strongly resisted. Following such a large scale demonstration, on April 24th, the government took down the order and the GHQ, for the first time, declared the state of emergency in Kobe, which virtually marked the victory for Koreans. Although there are some other political reasons behind the oppressive measure taken by the oppressors, from the fact that the GHQ and Japanese government tried to exterminate Korean educational institutions, it is possible to make an observation that they were aware of the power of language and its potential to be their threat.

Care a Commodity in Crisis

Anonymous student post

Earlier this semester we talked about the migrant work that women were doing and how it has led to the care crisis we see today; these women have, although out of necessity, chosen to work as caregivers to other people’s children.

The first factor that plays a big role in this accepting shift toward the adoption of imported care is the modernization of the first worlds, in my opinion. We as a society are always looking for a more efficient or easier way to do the things we need to do, and it is only “natural” that this search leaks into our personal lives. When was the last time you wanted to get up from that chair you’re in and manually look up how to do something; It takes time to look-up the needed information in a book compared to using the fast and easy-to-use super computer that’s laying at your side everyday in your pocket; well not so long ago that was the standard way and the only way. This hunt for the efficient way in connection with the modern cost of living means either both parents have to work to sustain a family or a single mother or father might have to work over time to do the same. This shift in society structure leads to the need for a caregiver, someone that can be there all the time, simplify the workload, and decrease the stress of having two jobs, parent and employee.

The second and third factors that play a big role is the demand for these migrant workers is both the families looking for help, and by the workers themselves who want to earn a better wage. These women make far more working for other people’s families then if they were to work in the Philippines. These two factors of demand are the reasons why “some 34-50% of Filipino population is sustained by remittance from migrant workers” (RhacelParrenas).  As for the employers, parents either together or single, want and need the time to step back in this day and age, and it’s an easily possible thing to obtain with the help of a migrant caregiver who is willing to literally raise your child and help with everything; Not only that, but they work for a decently cheap wage in comparison to hiring a nanny or babysitter from the home country. That wage, although small, trickles down the economic system and completes a support chain that is crucial to the lives of everyone connected to it because of the mass adoption to this demand.  The parent who employees need the cheap family support, the migrant workers need the money to help their families back home, and in the grand scale of things, both the economy need both parties of the transaction working to contribute to there local workforce and economy.

Lastly, like in classes we talked about, we know this is a problem, but is it the lesser of two evils or should we try to find a way to shift these women’s work back towards their home countries somehow? There is no easy solution to adjusting a whole country’s economic dependence of a portion of the population that needs the money and no way to shift the current sociological wants of the societies from these supporting counties hiring these women. Can we sit back and watch the trend fade or will this out sourcing care in the exchange of the lost care of another’s continue.

Now, at any time did you think does that migrant worker have a family or a child? Yes, a lot of them do, does it make a difference if you only know one side of the story? Just like the lack of information on the other child, the other child lacks far more. He or she lacks a connection that I can’t make palpable in any amount of words. They see their mother on very rare occasions and live their lives with little to no knowledge of a mother’s care; whereas other child get the care of their birth mother and basically a second mom.  I know that in my heart that this changes everything, I feel the ache of thinking about my life without my mother. She was my heart, my haven, and the person I could always talk to. What can I do though in this great big world for someone so far away? Well I propose we don’t forget; that we remember the others and maybe a shift can happen in the future.

Reference

Parreñas, Rhacel. 2003. “The care crisis in the Philippines: children and transnational families in the new global economy.” Pp. 39-54 in Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy, edited by Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Hochschild. New York: New York Metropolitan.  http://www.academia.edu/490445/The_care_crisis_in_the_Philippines_children_and_transnational_families_in_the_new_global_economy

The Modern Working Woman: Expectations and the Gender Income Gap

English: Gender Pay Gap in 19 OECD countries a...

English: Gender Pay Gap in 19 OECD countries according to the 2008 OECD Employment Outlook report (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Paige Shaw

From aprons to business suits and domestic duties to the nine-to-five grind, our idea of a hard-working woman has changed drastically. All around the world we see more and more women entering the work force. However, these attempts to make women “equal” have caused different problems to arise. Women who enter the work force are still expected to do the domestic duties they were previously expected to do, on top of having a career. There is simply not enough time in the day for any one person to be able to have a career, raise a family, and maintain a home. Men on the other are not expected to juggle all these things, but they are sometimes expected to put work before family. In addition women are paid a fraction of the amount to do the same work as their male counterparts. As a society we have developed this ideal of having work, home, and time for leisure. In the long run this is not a sustainable lifestyle. I have seen both in my home country, Canada, and in Japan on exchange, that in both countries there is a difference between being a man and being a woman in the workplace.

English: Map of Canada

English: Map of Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I find generally when I talk to people who aren’t from North America, or who aren’t too familiar with Canada, that they sometimes have the idea that Canada has it all figured out. However in terms of the gender income gap, Canada has a larger gap then countries such as Norway, Italy, and France. The Conference Board of Canada ranked Canada 11th out of 17 peer countries and gave it a grade C in terms of the Gender Income Gap. Women will earn approximately 76 cents for every dollar a man makes doing the same job. I find in Canada there is still the stereotype that housework and child rearing are more of the woman’s job. However there isn’t as much stigma towards stay at home dads or men helping out around the house as there are in other countries. But it does still seem to be the ideal for a woman to have a successful career, well-behaved children, and a well-maintained home. This is unrealistic because there is simply not enough time for one woman to do all these things.

Compared to Canada, Japan’s gender income gap is much wider, and their expectations for women make it harder to maintain a job. Women in Japan on average earn 29% less than men. It is also uncommon to see a woman working in a high position at a company. Japan has very high expectations for its workers and its mothers. Most women end up quitting their job, either by their own choice or because of societal pressure, once they get married or start having kids. Even with the recent action to increase the amount of women in the workforce, because social expectations aren’t changing, women ultimately have to choose between work and having a family. The husbands are also unable to spend time with their kids, let alone help out around the house, because they are expected to spend long hours at work and put in overtime as well. In order to accommodate having women in the work force Japan would need to loosen its expectations on not only the wife’s duties at home, but also the husband’s obligations at work, so both parents can play a role at home.

Overall it seems globally we still have distinct gender roles, and although on the outside it can seem that women are on equal terms with men in the workplace, that might not be the case. To solve this would take a lot of rearranging of the social order. In countries like Canada we need to get rid of the idea of a “supermom” that can do everything in one day, while ideal, it’s not realistic. And in countries like Japan men need to be given as much opportunity to participate in their families’ lives as much a woman should be given equal opportunity to participate in the workforce. This includes equal pay; women in every country should be paid the same amount for the same work regardless of their gender. We need to release the time-squeeze, and give people more time to maintain a healthy home life as well as a healthy life at work.

The Worldwide Abuse of Women

English: American women's earnings by educatio...

English: American women’s earnings by educational attainment, from Women in America (2011) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Olivia Katherine Parker

As an American-born woman, I have a choice. I have a choice to my career, who I marry, whether or not I raise children, and how I spend my future. Women in other countries are not as fortunate. In class, we discussed a few of these cases. For example, Filipino maids face abuse from their employers. Chinese women move to Beijing in order to temporarily escape marriage and to find work in factories that pay low rates. Migrant workers in Japan’s hostess bars have pay withheld from them. Furthermore, mothers from Sri Lanka who need to raise money to feed their children move thousands of miles away to do so. Even in a developed country known as an economic superpower, Japanese husbands oftentimes regard their wives as the domestic half – an idea that was common in American society in the 1950’s. That is not to say that America is the perfect place for women; the Caucasian woman only earns 70 cents to her male Caucasian coworker’s dollar. On top of that, women in America also face prejudice when they decide to live childfree lives or focus on their careers. This boils down to a thought: are women being taken advantage of in a global sense?

It was not long ago that, universally, men were the breadwinners and women were the caretakers. Why is it that in extreme poverty it is the mother who leaves her children behind to earn money for the family? Where are the husbands? Why aren’t they moving thousands of miles away to earn money and why are they allowing their wives to go to such lengths to care for their children?

In class we discussed that human trafficking and sex work are rampant in Japan’s night life. We focused on research by Rhacel Parreñas, who explained that male employers pressured female employees to perform sexual acts in return for money (the definition of prostitution). Parreñas also stated that if an employee was in Japan on an expired visa or any other less-than-legal terms, her pay was almost always withheld at least once.

Recently, we have been seeing a new trend in Japan where fathers are becoming more involved in the early years of their children’s lives. After speaking with several Japanese students I learned that it was common for their fathers to be absent from the home. It wasn’t manly to be seen with their children! After working long hours they would go to the bar and return home late in the night to eat dinner, watch TV, and go to sleep. Now, Japan has laws that allow fathers to take time off work to care for their newborn babies and we are seeing Japanese fathers take on the responsibilities that normally only the wives would have. Still, this is a new trend and it may be looked down upon by old and new generations alike.

Overall, we see a unified theme of women being taken advantage of, whether it is in a domestic setting or the work place. Of course, the severity ranges by location, and the idea that everything is the male’s fault is flawed. Still, the tired belief that women belong in the home needs to change and it is, slowly. Ultimately, we could see a shift in responsibilities between men and women.

Japan’s Rightwing Violence Escalates

A march by the far left “Anti-Imperial System Action Network” is met by a ferocious series of counter-demonstrations by rightwing activists, with a thin line of riot police in between. These events occurred on August 15, 2013, on the streets of Tokyo.

The Consequences of Being a Migrant Hostess in Japan

English: Host and hostess clubs in Ginza (Plac...

English: Host and hostess clubs in Ginza (Place – Ginza-7-Chōme) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Luke Kariniemi

In class we have been speaking about the advantages and disadvantages of Filipino women migrating to Japan and working there as “hostesses”, the experiences they have, and how Japan as a country deals with the perceived image these hostesses create.

Many Filipino women migrant to Japan to work as a hostess for a variety of reasons. Mainly, they migrate for the large increase in wages compared to what they could receive in their home country. They are paid to entertain male clients, pouring their drinks, offering flirtatious comments, singing karaoke and sometimes dancing. Many of the women enjoy doing this work and often see themselves as professional singers or dancers. The higher wages they receive from doing this can be sent back home to help support their families better than if they had stayed working in their domestic country.

However, there are many downsides to working as a hostess too. As Rhacel Salazar Parreñas says in her book Illicit Flirtations, “sexual harassment is the norm in hostess work”. Hostesses have to bear the harassment for however long the client has paid for. In many cases, this can be seen as male superiority. Men basically pay hostesses to compliment them and to have the ability to choose which girl they want, dismissing the less attractive ones. Essentially, ‘fluffing’ up the men’s ego. This can be soul-destroying for women and many of them would not be able to put up with being so insulted, let alone sexually harassed.

All of these problems can escalate very quickly when it comes to the world of migrant hostesses. Usually, a Filipino women with an ‘entertainer’ visa gets the job as a hostess through a ‘middleman broker’—similar to hiring agencies in western countries, apart from the fact that once they get a job for the woman in a specific club, the woman then ‘owes’ them a debt for doing so. This stops them from quitting their job before the contract with the middleman expires, because they will often be penalised if they do so. This can lead to them doing jobs that they do not want to perform, often including sexual acts, because they cannot quit. Hostesses become vulnerable to human rights violations because they end up depending on their sponsoring employers.

When the U.S. State Department labelled around 80,000 Filipina hostesses as “trafficked persons” in 2004, thinking that they were suffering forced prostitution, the Japanese government imposed new restrictions on the entertainer visa, believing that it would help the women be rid of the ‘hostess’ title. Although it did just that, lowering the number of Filipina hostesses in Japan by 90%, it may not have been for the best after all. When all of these women were sent back to their home country, they also went back to a much lower wage and therefore couldn’t care for their family as they could when working in Japan as a hostess. For a lot of them, their skill sets would only include things that the hostess job involved, and so there’s a chance they would end up going into prostitution which would have been a lot rougher in impoverished countries like the Philippines. Altogether, Japan managed to get rid of the image that other countries perceived it to be concerning the so called “trafficked persons”. Nevertheless, when in fact these women were not being illegally trafficked into Japan, but going through their own free will, the consequences may not be that great after all.