Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Gender Differences in Aspirations for Career and Marriage among Japanese Young Adults: Evidence from a Large National University in Japan

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Gender Differences in Aspirations for Career and Marriage among Japanese Young Adults: Evidence from a Large National University in Japan

Article excerpt


It is no longer sufficient to provide career guidance to help students make a career choice at the time of graduation. This is because even if they make a career choice and graduate from school, they would not necessarily continue to work at a single place of employment. (Shimomura, 2008, p. 140)

While Japanese society was once characterized by its stability and growth, as Ishida (2009) has observed, it is now known to suffer from uneven transitions from school to work, loss of job security, and anxiety over future employment, along with a falling birth rate that is highly associated with delays in marriage and beginning a family. Gaining employment in well-known companies has long been viewed in Japan as a symbol of future success for college graduates. But in the recessions following the burst of Japan's economic bubble in the early 1990s, as Japan has suffered slow and even negative growth coupled with price deflation, college graduates' searches for highly desirable employment (even for those who graduated from famous colleges) have become increasingly difficult.

Furthermore, "while traditional Japanese employment practices such as lifelong employment, the seniority-based promotion system, and the exclusive hiring of new graduates still apply to the core segment of the labor force, it is no longer the norm" (Fukahori, 2009, p. 7); for that reason, "individual youths are being held increasingly more accountable for their abilities and drive to make a successful entry into the labor market" (p. 7). This is greatly because of the technological revolution, such that "almost all jobs these days are undergoing changes like never before, and all freshmen and upperclassmen will need the ongoing support of career counselors" (Alssid, 2012, p. 3). The use of the information highway has created a large increase in the number of part-time workers and NEETs (those who are Not currently involved in Employment, Education, and Training) as well.

As a consequence, "there is an increasing need to strengthen self-understanding and work ethic among young adults. One strategy is to provide career education programs at the university level, which an increasing number of universities have been introducing" (Moriyama, 2008, p. 255). Effective career education "instills in students the recognition that they are independent and contributing members in society, as financial, social, and spiritual independence is obtained. Gaining independence from one's parents is a major part of this process" (p. 257). Career education, in essence, should provide "adequate career and occupational-related information, deepens an individual's self-understanding, and supports social independence, while fostering the skills and attitudes necessary to actively choose a career path" (Moriyama, 2008, p, 257).

Purpose of the Study

With the end of Japan's high economic growth and stability, the women of Japan face a new challenge. Many of them will have to be breadwinners as well as homemakers. The men of Japan also have to rethink the ways in which they can participate more in housework and child rearing typically done by women so that women are able to combine work and home.

Focusing on young people's vocational motivation and career exploration, the current study seeks to contribute to the quality of life experienced by Japanese men and women by assessing how and to what extent undergraduate men and women in Japan select career goals, marriage goals, and lifelong goals that support one another, and thus, to achieve success in their lives. Because Japan is not alone in facing a changing labor economy as well as a massive transformation in the ways people work and think about their 'work-life' balance, the results will be of interest not only to Japanese educators and counselors specializing in career planning, but also to their colleagues in many other cultures, including those of the western Pacific. …

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