Can Japanese Women Serve the Nation by Serving Tea? The Jietai, J-Jobs, and Justice

Image

by Robert Moorehead

Japan’s Self-Defense Force is joining the nation’s efforts to offer more employment opportunities for women, through this recruitment campaign. Women can get a “j-na shigoto,” or a j-job. What’s a j-job? Actually there are 3 j’s, so you know it’s good: Jietai (self-defense force), joyful, and job. “Won’t you try?” says one of the uniformed women, photographed lounging about.

If Prime Minister Abe’s efforts to recruit more women into the workforce are to be successful, employers like the Jietai might want to rethink how they treat women. Are they workers, or are they eye-candy? Can they help defend the nation, or can they answer the phones? Serve the nation or serve tea?

As Laura D’Andrea Tyson noted recently in a blog post for the New York Times, Japanese women’s employment rate is 25 points lower than men’s, and when women are working, they are paid on average 28% less for equivalent jobs. Japanese tax laws also penalize two-income families, and Japanese women face a greater “mommy tax” than women in any other OECD country.

Plus, not only is childcare rarely available, but the burden of childcare remains clearly gendered in Japan. Policy debates of how to enable more women to work discuss how women, and only women, can better work the “second shift,” balancing work and family. Such proposals ignore men completely, even though my male Japanese students often tell me they too would like to be able to have a career and raise a family.

What’s behind the move to get more women into the workforce? Japan’s aging society needs more workers. As Tyson notes:

These initiatives are not motivated by softhearted political correctness but by hard-headed economic logic. Japan needs to expand its work force, which is shrinking rapidly as a result of a sagging birth rate and an aging population. The International Monetary Fund estimates that Japan’s working-age population will fall by almost 40 percent by 2050. The share of citizens older than 65 is expected to jump from 24 percent in 2012 to 38 percent in 2050, when the ratio of the working population to the elderly population will be 1 to 1.

“Japan is growing older faster than anywhere else in the world,” the I.M.F. reports. Unless the nation can shore up its work force, it faces a long-term drag on economic growth at a time of soaring obligations for old-age entitlements.

My university classrooms are filled with intelligent, highly trained women who are looking for career opportunities that take advantage of their skills. They do not want to be asked to serve tea, or be expected to quit when they get married or have children.

They want real jobs, not j-jobs.

Advertisements