One such law pushed in the 1960s was called hitozukuri policy, or human-making policy, which burdened women with the responsibility to reproduce a new generation capable of economic success. In Japan, the process of getting a divorce is considered a personal family issue in which the Japanese government does not get extremely involved in except to provide legal papers that need to be consensually signed by both partners in the marriage.

  • With nearly 21,000 reports of stalking in 2013, 90.3% of the victims were women and 86.9% of the perpetrators were men.
  • Although Japanese women now participate in the labor force at a higher rate, their labor market experiences are often less rewarding than those of their American counterparts.
  • In 1969,twelve weeks of paid maternity leavewere guaranteed by the Japanese government; a series of reforms in 1992 and 1995 expanded this to one year of paid leave available to both parents.
  • These inequalities affect many aspects of individuals who do not identify with heterosexual marriage norms including social and legal discrimination in the work place, education, healthcare, and housing, with the legal discrimination stemming from the Koseki.
  • They continued to have nearly total responsibility for home and children and often justified their employment as an extension of their responsibilities for the care of their families.

Compared to the limitations previous generations had to face, modern Japanese women enjoy more freedom, have better access to education, more job opportunities, and therefore gained visibility in society. But while attitudes on traditional gender roles may have shifted in recent decades, social change has since been a slow, gradual movement and reed about it at by no means has Japan reached an equal society.

In the 1950s, most women employees were young and single; 62 percent of the female labor force in 1960 had never been married. In 1987 about 66 percent of the female labor force was married, and only 23 percent was made up women who had never married. Some women continued working after marriage, most often in professional and government jobs, but their numbers were small. More commonly, women left paid labor after marriage, then returned after their youngest children were in school. These middle-age recruits generally took low-paying, part-time service or factory jobs. They continued to have nearly total responsibility for home and children and often justified their employment as an extension of their responsibilities for the care of their families.

Professional life

They remain less likely to be hired as full-time employees and on average earn almost 44 percent less than men. Many leave their jobs after having a child, and making up the lost time is almost impossible under Japan’s seniority-based system. Although slowly, the Japanese government is taking steps toward transforming the nation into a more equitable society. The gender gap in employment and wages is becoming an increasingly serious problem, with Japan being the fastest aging country in the OECD.

After the war, women continued to prove that they wouldn’t regress to old ways of gender discrimination and that they wanted to be trailblazers for future Japanese women. Women were empowered by their newly discovered potential for equality and continued to sustain their prominence. That’s a major issue in Japan, where the birth rate is falling, the population is aging, and many young people are in precarious, low-paid jobs. Less than 3 percent of children were born out of wedlock in 2020, and the decision to marry still largely depends on the man’s ability to provide, though attitudes are starting to change. These developments provide a clear opening for businesses to support STEM education for young women.

Activist Tamaka Ogawa says she joined the women’s movement after receiving insults—such as “filthy feminist” —over a 2013 article defending working mothers. Mori, who was head of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organizing committee, provoked worldwide outrage in February 2021 with remarks about “talkative women” prolonging meetings. A petition launched the following day calling for “appropriate sanctions” against him collected 110,000 signatures in two days. A Kyodo poll found that 60 percent of Japanese believed he should step down as committee head. A number of Olympic sponsors and celebrities distanced themselves from his remarks, and more than a thousand volunteers refused to help out during the Olympics. Despite Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s support, Mori was forced to step down, the first time an LDP heavyweight had resigned over sexist behavior.

Expectations for men and women have traditionally aligned with societal obligations in the private and public sector. Women dominated the household but outside of the home, their families dictated their behavior. Although ancient philosophies like Confucianism and feudalism laid the foundations for the status of women, turning points like WWII allowed them to break through the glass ceiling and defy gender expectations. A similar distinction—that of regular and non-regular employees (part-time, temporary, and other indirect workers)—is especially salient in Japan. Using this categorization, it is apparent that a substantially larger portion of prime-age women are engaged in non-traditional (and often lower-quality) jobs, with the share increasing from 44.2 percent in 2000 to 51.0 percent in 2016. Non-regular workers aremore likely to engage in routine tasks,less likely to qualify for public pension insurance, andless likely to see wage increases throughout their careers.

When divorce was granted under equal measures to both sexes under the post-war constitution, divorce rates steadily increased. After the Meiji period, the head of the household was required to approve of any marriage. Until 1908, it remained legal for husbands to murder wives for infidelity. Lebra’s traits for internal comportment of femininity included compliance; for example, children were expected not to refuse their parents. Self-reliance of women was encouraged because needy women were seen as a burden on others. In these interviews with Japanese families, Lebra found that girls were assigned helping tasks while boys were more inclined to be left to schoolwork.

In both countries, the age at first marriage has risen steadily since the early 2000s, contributing to a decline in the share of the prime-age population that is married. With Japanese women aged 25 to 54 less likely to be married in recent years, the prime-age women’s population now contains more people who traditionally have participated in the labor market at high rates, as shown in the left panel of figure 5. As Japan faced a rapidly aging population earlier than many other countries, it is sometimes seen as a window into other countries’ futures, when the population and workforce will eventually age to a similar extent as in Japan today. However, when it comes to labor market outcomes for women, this story is too simple.

Gender gap in employment and wages

In the 1930s and 1940s, the government encouraged the formation of women’s associations, applauded high fertility, and regarded motherhood as a patriotic duty to the Japanese Empire. However, it is important to note that population aging may have consequences that are less direct. For example, the increase in demand for long-term care services—a sector employing many more women than men—likely increased demand for women’s labor. These calculations are only intended to give a rough sense of the magnitudes of the shifts, as we have not attempted to identify the causal impact of rising long-term care demand. Until the late 1990s, the so-called women’s protection provisions putlimits on women’s labor market engagement, limiting hours of work and total overtime as well as prohibiting women from working in occupations deemed dangerous.

The evolution of Japanese society has caused women to acclimatize to new customs and responsibilities. Various waves of change introduced new philosophies that guided Japanese lifestyles. Women were instilled with values of restraint, respect, organization, decorum, chastity, and modesty. Samurai feudalism gave little independence to women, and many were forced into prostitution. Some women served as samurai, a role in which they were expected to be loyal and avenge the enemies of their owners. Others, such as aristocratic women, were used for political alliances and reserved as pawns for family investment.

From the Inquiries Journal Blog

Japan’s newfound Buddhism had fundamental convictions that women were of evil nature, which eventually led women into a submissive role of in Japanese society. There is also a widespread recognition by the Japanese society that interests and abilities must be cultivated early and nurtured generously through academic education, extracurricular activities and social interactions. However, data from the National Institute for Educational Policy Research shows only 16% of girls choose to further pursue science and math education in high school, compared to 27% of high school boys who select science and mathematics. In 2019, slightly more than half (50.7%) of Japanese women advanced from secondary schools to universities, an increase from an advancement rate of only 15.2% in 1990. Japan holds the highest share of the world’s population in this age group. James Raymo points out that more recent Japanese cohorts have also left the workforce after childbirth, but for shorter periods of time. “Most of the companies are receptive; they recognize this is an issue, and they’re hoping to resolve it over the next year or two,” said Chris Vilburn, the head of Asia stewardship in Goldman’s asset management division.