Gender in Employment: Work Life Balance in Japan

by Kaoru Inoue

After the hit of Subprime mortgage loan in Japan, Japanese economy has fumbled around in the total darkness. Deflation has heavily affected on Japanese firms. Besides US economic crisis influencing on Japan, some studies have shown issues of employment – firms in Japan lack diversity where usually women have less chances to participate; flexibility of employment styles shall revitalize firms as well as the economy. Scholars indicated Work Life Balance (WLB) as a measure to facilitate human resource in Europe such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, United Kingdom, and France. WLB in these countries are taken as their management tools. This short paper will look at gender in employment in Japan by focusing on WLB.

Institutions and scholars defined “Work Life Balance” in many ways; a various insights could be drawn from it. According to the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, it defines that employees may confront difficulties when there are things they want or must achieve, and thus, WLB seeks to allow achieve them do both things. The problem lies in the word. The word “Balance” undermines people – should an amount of work and private be equalized or balanced? According to those scholars, they indicate how difficult to define “Balance” since it really does depend on everybody and they have different flows of working and spending private life. Through the studies they concluded that the concept of diversity shall be stored in all, allowing employment flexibilities; hence, women can have higher opportunities to participate in society.

Takeishi (2011) elicited three common traits of Japanese employees in comparison to United Kingdom and Germany. Firstly, average working hours are longer than others. Secondly, their working hours are usually the same among the rest of workers. Thirdly, their working places are usually at their firms. The latter two points indicate that working in Japan is relatively not flexible. On this context, women cannot continue seeking their careers as well as men who cannot spend long hours with children (Takeishi, 2011, “Issues of Storing Work-Life-Balance”). Takeishi also questioned what makes Europe more advanced. In the past decades, European countries had industrial-oriented economies; employees were strictly under control – their working hours were tight and labors were harsh. As the years have passed, those firms realized the importance of diversity because these firms were leaning to become similar to each other; since then, companies have vibrant atmospheres. Japan has been similar to the old Europe.

While Japanese economy is going bad, companies do know the importance of this concept to be stored. However, they usually cannot – attempts usually fail because of costs (Takeishi, 2011, “Issues of Storing Work-Life-Balance”). Costs bother Japan’s solid employment culture. Some scholars thus suggested re-conceptualizing WLB as the tool to cultivate human resource. For mutual benefit both employees and employers.


Takei, E. (2011). ワーク・ライフ・バランス実現への課題 (issues of storing work-life balance). Retrieved from

One thought on “Gender in Employment: Work Life Balance in Japan

  1. Pingback: A Flexible Work Schedule Can Help You Balance Your Life – Career Igniter Blog

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