Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Contingent Work Rising: Implications for the Timing of Marriage in Japan

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Contingent Work Rising: Implications for the Timing of Marriage in Japan

Article excerpt

Major societal changes, including the spread of globalization; the rise of technology, which has facilitated the offshore outsourcing of work; the weakening of labor unions; and the spread of neoliberal economic doctrines have led to the growth of precarious and non-regular employment in the industrialized countries of Asia as well as others throughout the world (see Beck, 2000;Kalleberg,2009,2011;Kalleberg&Hewison, 2013; Webster, Lambert, & Bezuidenhout, 2008). This structural change is represented by the expansion of contingent,ornon-regular, work arrangements such as temporary, contract, and part-time work characterized by insecure and unstable employment, few opportunities for career advancement, and relatively low earnings and benefits. Non-regular employment has pervasive consequences for the nature of work, workplaces, and peoples' work experiences; for gender roles; for non-work-related individual (e.g., mental stress, ill physical health, education) and social (e.g., family, community) outcomes; and for political instability (De Witte, 1999; Standing, 2011).

The impacts of the growth of non-regular work have been especially severe for young people, who disproportionately make up the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed (Eurostat, 2013) and are facing considerable hurdles in launching their work careers (Fong & Tsutsui, 2013; Hamaguchi & Ogino, 2011; Shikata, 2012; Yu, 2012). With young adults bearing the brunt of difficult and uncertain labor market conditions, their ability to marry and have children likely is negatively affected. The consequences of the growth of non-regular employment are likely to be especially problematic in countries such as Japan, with its entrenched male-breadwinner-female-homemaker tradition in which men's and women's roles are fairly rigidly determined and where the institutional context prescribes well-defined, young adult transitions between social locations, especially those from school to work and work to marriage.

There is growing evidence that Japan, a country now in the third decade of the so-called "lost decade" of economic stagnation resulting from the bursting of the asset price bubble and other economic difficulties in the years following the financial crisis of the 1990s, has been especially affected by the growth of non-regular employment. Japan has experienced not only economic change but also a substantial drop in the proportion of young people marrying and having children (Atoh, Kandiah, & Ivanov, 2004; Jones, 2007; Tsuya, in press), which has serious implications for many facets of the Japanese population, including the future of its labor force and its age structure. Late marriage and low fertility also have negative implications for government social policies, which rely on a supportive family (formerly the de facto welfare system in Japan). With low wages and limited social support, the working poor risk becoming entrenched in poverty (e.g., A. Allison, 2013). The term freeters has been applied to those who hold only temporary or part-time jobs; they have become a growing part of the stagnant Japanese economy.

Despite much discussion in the recent literature on the probable impact of experiencing non-regular work on family formation in Japan and elsewhere, behavioral empirical evidence on the hypothesized relationships has been lacking. Modena and Sabatini (2012), using data from Italy, examined fertility intentions (not behavior) for married couples, with an average age of 41 for men and 37 for women (hence late in their childbearing years). They found a negative effect of precarious work on women's fertility intentions, but not for men's. Although fertility intentions can be changeable, this Italian study is consistent with the theoretical expectations involving employment.

In this study we addressed this gap by examining whether non-regular work leads to marriage postponement and whether this differs for men and women. …

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