Gendered Migration Decisions: Shifting Priorities of Highly Skilled Chinese in Japan in the Life Course

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Ruth ACHENBACH , Department of Japanese Studies, University of Hamburg, Germany
Japan, although suffering from a shrinking population in times of economic stagnation, fails to tap the full potential of women and retain international talent in the national labor market. For highly skilled female migrants, this makes Japan an even less attractive destination, as they struggle to advance careers and fulfill roles in families. Yet, with the notable exception of Liu-Farrer’s (2009) work, this group has not featured in scholarly literature on labor migration to Japan, which tends to focus on (highly skilled) male migrants and reduces female migration to less skilled migrants. To improve Japan’s immigration policies and increase female labor force participation, not only policy and economic frameworks need to be examined but specifically individual decision-making processes have to take center stage.

This paper focuses on Chinese highly skilled migrants’ (re-)migration decisions. It analyzes factors influencing Chinese men and women in Japan in three influential spheres: perceptions of a) responsibilities to the family (e.g. towards ageing parents, for children’s education, spouse’s preferences), b) career considerations (applicability of skills, income level, career chances) and c) personal preferences (life style, political values etc.). Migrants aim for the best balance between those factors. In addition to these considerations, migrants’ decision-making processes are influenced by the position in the household (influence of parents, partners and children), and migration policies and economic development of return and migration destinations. Priorities shift with life stage and differ with gender. Based mainly on qualitative and statistical analyses of interviews conducted in 2011–12 with 56 female/64 male Chinese migrants to Japan, this study sheds light on the status and agency of women in Chinese and Japanese societies and labor markets. It identifies gendered differences in migration decision-making behavior and provides the basis for better understanding and for improved policies to support badly needed female labor migrants.