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.

Advertisements

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

Refugeeism, social rights and the Japanese government

Anonymous student post

Seal of the Office of the Prime Minister and t...

Seal of the Office of the Prime Minister and the Government of Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Anne Allison (2013), Japan is facing an era of ordinary refugeeism, in which ordinary people like us could be a homeless with no job and no place to return to. Many of these people Anne Alison calls “the drifting poor” are flexible or irregular workers, including temporary workers or day laborers having no job security, often with no compensation or health insurance and earning about 7000yen for a day on average. Some of these workers become net café refugees, spending nights at an internet café or hamburger shops since they cannot afford an apartment. Among those most precarious workers, quite many numbers are the young generations in their age of twenties. This new face of poverty in Japanese society are ordinary youth we can find anywhere in Japan once expected to be a re-productivity of Japanese society and shoulder it’s economy of the next generation (Allison, 2013).

It seems clear that Japan’s progressively reproductive futurism is collapsing into precarious society with no hope for the future, as Anne Allison points out in her book. Recently, only a few percent of world population is monopolizing the wealth and the economic gap is widening and the number of precarious people are considered denizens without sustainable jobs, full citizenship or home even inside their home country is increasing. Japan is not the exception but at the front of this trend.

This situation of denizens contradicts the Japanese constitution. According to article 25 which stipulates the right to life and the state’s social mission, all citizens are entitled to have healthy and culturally basic existence (Tanaka, 2014). It could also be a violation of social rights in International Covenants on Human Rights that Japan has been ratifying (Tanaka, 2014). It is obvious that being homeless and not able to lay down when sleeping, eating cup noodles only and continuously threatened by job insecurity is not a healthy and culturally basic existence and Japanese government has a responsibility by not fulfilling this right.

The Japanese Government protected big companies in priority and introduced the system of results-based employment and individual responsibility after facing the bursting of the bubble economy and the following economic decline. However, they did not proclaim any effective policy on social security to protect people who fell out of the new working system nor develop a social welfare system. Currently, the Abe administration is practicing the policy of Abenomics, the economic and monetary policies of prime minister Abe. I suspect that this economic measure is not effective by accelerating the social gap and distortion of neoliberalism.

Statistics are showing that although companies’ profits had increased with Abenomics, capital investment has not increased; therefore the policy is failing to distribute wealth for the employees (Suzuki, n.d.). Furthermore, the administration is spending so much time and effort on the argument of revision of article 9. Rather, I think the government should provide countermeasures on employment and social welfare for this critical situation affecting too many irregular workers. However, the Abe administration has reduced the budget for public assistance since August 2013 (Seikatsuhogohi, 2013).

If the future of our country is the youth who are irregular workers, with no home, no hope or plan for the future, Japan will blow up itself. In order to break through this situation, it is very important to have NPOs or NGOs to help those precarious people. However, I believe this is more the government’s responsibility to control and correct these issues. I think one of the biggest problems is that the Japanese people have little sense of entitlement and depend on the bureaucracy. We citizens too have a responsibility by light polls at elections to overlook the hardship. I think we should not just accept unfair situations or deceived by government’s little temporary distribution of economic profit trying to divert citizen’s dissatisfaction. We Japanese citizens should actively request the government to fundamentally improve the social welfare system.

References

Allison, A. (2013). Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University press.

Tanaka, M. (2014). Basic documents of International Law. Toshindo: Japan.

Suzuki, M.(n.d.). Setsubitoushi karamita keikijunkan [capital investment and economic rocovery]. Retrieved from http://group.dai-ichi-life.co.jp/dlri/monthly/pdf/0811_7.pdf

Seikatsuhogohi 8 gatubunkara gengakue [public assistance budget will be reduced from this August] (May 16, 2013). Retrieved from Asashi Digital: http://newvo.jp/237743/%E6%9C%9D%E6%97%A5%E6%96%B0%E8%81%9E%E3%83%87%E3%82%B8%E3%82%BF%E3%83%AB%EF%BC%9A%E7%94%9F%E6%B4%BB%E4%BF%9D%E8%AD%B7%E8%B2%BB%E3%80%81%EF%BC%98%E6%9C%88%E5%88%86%E3%81%8B%E3%82%89%E6%B8%9B%E9%A1%8D%E3%81%B8%E3%80%80%EF%BC%92%E5%B9%B4%E3%81%A7%EF%BC%96%EF%BC%8E%EF%BC%95%EF%BC%85%E3%82%AB%E3%83%83%E3%83%88-%E6%94%BF%E6%B2%BB

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

A Critique of Abenomics

by Robert Moorehead

Political posters are a common site in Japan, and—surprisingly from an American perspective—are rarely defaced with graffiti. In this case, Prime Minister Abe’s policies met with some public disapproval.

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta