Inequality for Women and Men in Japanese Society

by Misato Okumura

In general, people all over the world say our inequality between women and men are remarkable in Japanese society. This is true. For example we have a little number of female CEOs or any kinds of head of firms, and a lot of Japanese mothers quit their job and stay home when they got their children. Some people don’t quit their job even if they have small kids but the mothers need to do both house and care work and actual work at a company. And most working women are not satisfied with their working conditions and change or quit their jobs. The way to solve this problem is not only offering more works for them and getting them promotions more easily. This is not that easy. For example, if they get them more promotions, it makes them more difficult to leave their job and it will be more burdens for women who have their children at home because they need to do both jobs. Moreover, this is not a disadvantage only for women. It is also unfair for the fathers to spend less time with their children than the mothers do. Then how can we change this structure?

Before we think about this question, I would like to analyze how the structure of Japanese society creates this inequality. I think we have 3 characteristics which influence on this. They are the lifetime employment system, lack of kindergartens and decreasing birthrate and aging population. These problems don’t let us leave the inequality.

First, the lifetime employment system makes it easier for women to leave their jobs. In this system, people can work till they become 60 years old once they got hired. But also, they need to stay working for the company as long as possible to get promotion. This system is not applied to women. So if they need money, men need to work and women need to take care of children at home.

Then what if mothers want to go working rather than to stay home and raise up their children? Basically, they leave their kids at the kindergarten during their working. But this is difficult because we don’t have a lot of kindergartens in each community and almost no kindergarten at company. To make the matter worse, some people don’t have enough money to leave their kids there.

Moreover, our society is aging and losing young people every year. The number of elder people is increasing every day. And these people think that women should stay home to do care work and men should earn enough money to take care of this family. In short, the number of people who have this idea is huge. This makes it difficult to share care work between women and men.

In conclusion, Japanese unique social structure has created an inequality between women and men. I think we need to establish more public kindergartens and hire more teachers and to make the opportunity to let elder people and young people share and understand their ideas in order to change our social structure.

What is gender equality in Japan

by Ayaka Nishizaki

Gender inequality has been one of controversial topics for a long time in many countries as well as Japan. This time, I would like to think and mention gender inequality in Japan.

During my class, I learned an inequality of work opportunities for women in some countries. I heard that women’s job opportunities have increased than before, but women still have to do house work because of traditional idea and women will be more burden than men. I understood that is called gender inequality. However, I felt gender inequality cannot be said from only that point. This is because the meaning of the inequality is different in each countries’ situation, and I wondered ‘what does gender inequality mean in Japan?’ When it comes to say gender inequality, the premise that women are responsible for taking care of children and doing house work always seems to be rooted in Japanese Society. I think that premise is only women’s side. For a long time, while women have been thought as domestic worker, men have been thought that they have heavy responsibility for work to support whole members of family. The number of men who commit suicide is higher than that of women because of pressure of work. Also, if men want to do care work, it is difficult to do because support system from government and companies is not enough. In my opinion, there is not only inequality of burden for women but also inequality of care work opportunities or pressure working for men, but Japan has seems to highlight women as a most part of gender inequality to date.

Today, Japan society faces difficult situation because Japan regarded gender inequality as women’s side inequality, I think. Recently, women’s job opportunities have increased by gender equality movement, but at the same time, married couples have difficulty in keeping life balance. there are few opportunities to do care work for men because Japan didn’t think gender inequality from men side. Therefore, women can’t ask men to do house work while men have no choice to work at companies and they can’t help care work. When we improve gender equality, the important thing is to keep life work balance so that married couple can keep good relationships. I realized that even if some movements or measures for the inequality are made, if these actions are composed of only one side view point, it will just create ‘time squeeze’ I learned in my class, Thus, my opinion is that when Japan takes some actions for improving equality, Japan society should think gender inequality from both women and men sides.

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.