Women and Japanese Management: Discrimination and Reform

Women and Japanese Management: Discrimination and Reform

Women and Japanese Management: Discrimination and Reform

Women and Japanese Management: Discrimination and Reform

Synopsis

Standard works on the employment systems of Japanese companies deal almost exclusively with men. Women, however, constitute the vast majority of the low wage, highly flexible "non-core" employees.
This book breaks new ground in examining the role of Japanese women in industry. It assesses the extent to which growing pressure for equal opportunities between the sexes has caused Japanese companies to adapt their employment and personnel management practices in recent years.
The author puts the argument in an historical perspective, covering the employment of Japanese women from the start of Japan's industrialisation up to the turning point of the 1986 Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Law. She examines the background and execution of the legislation and she looks at the response of the business community. In her case study of the Seibu department store, which takes up the final part of the book, Lam concludes that the EEO Law has not had the desired effect.

Excerpt

It is often argued that the vitality of the Japanese employment system is sustained by personnel management rules and practices which make a clear distinction between the 'core' and the 'non-core' employees. The former, predominantly male, enjoy the privileges of long-term employment, wage increases and promotion based on age and length of service (nenko), and internal career progression through job rotation and in-company training; whereas the latter group is excluded (Galenson and Odaka 1976; Ishikawa 1980; Odaka 1984). Women workers constitute a high proportion of the latter category of employees. Their relatively low wages, high turnover and flexible entry and exit from the labour market play an especially important role in maintaining the flexibility of the employment system (Shinotsuka 1982; Kawashima 1987). Until very recently, direct exclusion and discrimination against women in all stages of employment was both legal and socially acceptable.

The picture began to shift from the mid-1970s. Social and economic changes gradually brought into question companies' discriminatory employment policies against women. The advent of the 'service economy' has expanded women's job opportunities and given them better access to the business world. Increased internationalisation of Japan also brought to the fore the low status of Japanese women in all aspects of the society, especially in the field of employment, compared with their counterparts in other advanced countries (The Economist 1988). Internal socio-economic changes, coupled with pressures from the international community, eventually led to the introduction of the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Law in May 1985.

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