Work and Lifecourse in Japan

By Samuel Coleman; Theodore F. Cook Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Changing Employment Patterns of Women

KAREN C. HOLDEN

Women have made up a substantial segment of Japan's labor force throughout the modern century. During the postwar period, however, educational and employment opportunities have grown and changed, making a wider range of choices available to them and leading to major changes in the timing and continuity of work over the lifecourse. Furthermore, it is now more readily accepted that women will work. Nonetheless, the stereotype still holds that a woman typically works for a few years after leaving school and that, outside of a few occupations such as nursing, teaching, or beauty care, she exits from the labor force at marriage.

Data on women workers in Japan counter this stereotype. The key findings presented in this chapter are that women of all ages and family status have responded rapidly and in large number to growing employment opportunities outside family farms and business; that this response has led them to increase their participation in paid work and to continue to work during marriage and childbearing -- the years during which previous generations ceased work; and that these changes have altered the character of the Japanese work force from one heavily male and young to one in which growth in the number of older female employees is a major component of employee growth. In this chapter I measure the changing trends in women's labor force participation in Japan in recent years by looking at the behavior from 1960 to 1975 of a succession of birth cohorts of women. Change is defined as the difference between a cohort's actual pattern of labor force participation and the pattern one might have predicted from the behavior of earlier cohorts.

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