Caregiving and Paid Work Among Midlife Women in Japan

Friday, 20 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Saeko KIKUZAWA, Hosei University, Japan
Ryotaro UEMURA, Keio University, Japan
Japan is one of the most aged countries in the world. The proportion of its population being 65 or older has increased rapidly, from 7% in 1970 to 27.3% in 2016. This rapid aging of the population has had two important consequences for women’s lives. First, increased elderly population has meant that more women face the responsibility of caring for their elderly parents in midlife. Second, the relative scarcity of working-age Japanese, along with economic destabilization, has required more women to enter the labor market. However, these two roles–caregiving and paid work–are considered to be rather incompatible in social environments that continue to be based on gender division of labor.

How do Japanese women balance caregiving and paid work? Previous research documented a negative correlation between participation in the two activities. This negative association could result from either of the two possible causal processes: non-working women may be more likely to start caregiving than working women, and those women who become caregivers may be more likely to quit working. However, the causal relationship between women’s caregiving and work decisions in Japan has not been fully elucidated up to this point because most prior research relied on cross-sectional data.

Drawing on the first two waves (2005, 2006) of a nationwide panel survey of Japanese adults in their fifties, this study explored the relationship between caregiving and employment among middle-age Japanese women. The results of multivariate regression analyses showed that the causal relationships are bidirectional: non-working women have a higher likelihood of providing care, while caregiving reduces the chance of participation in labor force. These findings will be interpreted in terms of the Japanese social context, in which the transition away from the traditional model of male breadwinners and female caretakers has not yet been fully achieved.