The Barriers of Gender-Equal Work-Family Reconciliation in Japan

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Yukiko SENDA, Tohoku-Gakuin University, Japan
The increase of women with a high educational background is one of the drivers in the increase of their workforce participation and breaks the ideology of the gender division of labor. It brings about the legislation of work-family balance in policy and promotes men’s participation in domestic duties, which actualizes a gender-equal society.

This study investigates whether this is also true for Japan per government statistics, surveys, and notices. They show the following: the labor participation of the productive female population increases; the female workforce utilization is polarizing among workplaces; the work hours of regular employees are quite long, especially in their 20s and 30s; singlehood increases while childbearing decreases; more women view their life course pattern as “to marry, to have a child, but to continue working”; the ratio of woman continuing to work before and after their first childbirth rises after 2010; half of all people are affirmative of the gender division of labor, even today; and the government is actively helping women balance work and family but is negative about helping men to do so.

In summary, the ideology of gender division of labor by both policy makers and the general public as well as the long hours of work are the two main barriers that interact with each other to actualize a gender-equal work-family reconciliation in Japan. To access better opportunities, employees have to show their eagerness by working long hours, while there is no establishment of measures to cut long work hours on the policy side. Additionally, the work-family reconciliation policies are mostly directed at and utilized by women. Wives often spontaneously give up promotions, move to a “mommy track”, or quit working entirely after childbirth to balance their work and family because they give priority to their husbands’ career formation.