Gender Structure in Working Place in Japan

by Asako Morita

Gender role has been considered as a part of culture and behaviors of people tend to be based on gender role. In Japan, historically men have worked outside and women have been housewives. This family structure is recognized as common sense so many workplaces are not well prepared for women to work long and secured. Because of the whole structure, women are easy to be in an economically vulnerable position. In this short essay, I would like to seek Northern European countries where more women have well advanced in society and what systems can fit in Japanese system.

In Japan, lifetime employment system has been normal and once you quit a job, it is hard to get a job which has as same as the previous condition.  However, with the onset of cataclysmic changes in the economic climate in 2009, employers began laying off and dismissing massive numbers of non-permanent workers and workers employed on a part-time or contract basis for periods of less than one year. Compared to regular employment, non-regular employment is able to receive limited company’s benefit package and unsecured. In Japan, about 60 percent of women quit jobs after they get married or give birth and afterward, they only have option to work as a non-regular or part-time workers. Because of the common sense of gender role, men tend not to do housekeeping or child caring but working as a breadwinner. It means only super women can raise children and work at the same time.

On the other hand, in Northern European countries, even though most women work as non-regular workers, they are satisfied with the job condition and they are able to handle both raising children and working since non-regular workers can work flexibly. The biggest difference from Japanese system is that non-regular workers are also well secured and they can receive a good benefit package from company. Therefore, most women choose to take non-regular jobs and they do not have to give up anything. Other difference is how long men contribute to family and households. I think one of the reason is working hour of Japanese men is too long and not enough time to be at home.

Surely it is difficult to fit the whole system of Northern European countries to Japan. However, I think Japanese working environment has way less flexibility and it hinders the entrance of women into the workforce. Now it is essential to create more flexibility at workplaces and expanding career switch market for both women and men’s opportunity for balancing work and family.

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