apanese women are returning to the workplace, but still face many challenges

Retirement after the first child has matured is a familiar choice for most Japanese women for decades. However, as Japan’s underage rate and aging population continue to decline, the importance of women in the workplace is gradually becoming more prominent, which is also prompting more housewives to return to the workplace.

On the one hand, the participation rate of Japanese women in rest has been increasing. According to the research report released by Guojin Securities on March 25, 2024, the participation rate of Japanese women in leisure activities increased from 54% in 1968 to 74% in 2022. On the other hand, there is also data showing a high unemployment rate and a connection between housewives returning to the workplace. According to The Economist, in 2022, the unemployment rate for Japanese women aged 25 to 39 has been higher than 80% for the first time on record. At the same time, the proportion of families living with full-time wives has risen to below 30%, setting a record. The Japan Times reported in 2022 that by the end of 2021, more than 70% of mothers of children under the age of 18 had joined the rest, which was nearly 20 percentage points higher than in 2004.
Japanese women who act as “invisible property”
Whenever it comes to Japan’s lack of rest ability, there are always three management plans that come to the surface: elderly people, women, and their own citizens. Japanese politician and lawyer Masako Mori once issued a critical article in 2022, stating that women are Japan’s “invisible property”. She mentioned that if the unemployment rate and rest time of women (including those who have received higher education) progress to the same level as men, Japan’s GDP will increase by 15%.
Kathy Matsui, former vice chairman of Goldman Sachs Japan, coined the term “women’s economics” to view women’s resting power as an economic capital that has not yet been fully utilized. The Abe authorities have regarded the participation of women in the economy as one of their primary missions, despite the concepts she has not mentioned. However, there is a concept that although significant actions have been taken in providing girl child care, tax reform, and maternity leave strategies, the elite views within the Liberal Democratic Party of Korea, as well as the civil affairs and corporate sectors of the authorities, have hindered mandatory legislation and still necessary political and social reforms.
The high level of education among Japanese women also allows them to fully utilize the opportunity to return to the workplace. According to Statista’s data, in 2023, approximately 44.6% of the total number of dropouts from Japanese universities were female, a ratio that has continued to increase over the past 10 years. According to OECD data in 2022, the rate of women aged 25-64 in Japan receiving a general degree in higher education is one of the highest rates among surveyed OECD countries (57.3%), while the rate for men is 54.9%.
On August 17, 2023, in Tokyo, Japan, rickshaw pullers Akina Suzuki and Misato Otoshi are clearing their cars after work. Through social media, some women are beginning to pay attention to the work in this male dominated position.
It is worth noting that women’s participation in rest is always associated with unfamiliarity. In Japan, there is a strong belief that women’s participation in rest is the reason for the rise in underage rates. However, Masako Mori missed the concept that promoting gender equality and improving underage rates are “by no means contradictory”.
Japan still faces severe gender disparities. The World Economic Forum (WEF) publishes the Global Gender Gap Index (GGI) every year based on a balance scale of politics, economy, education, and hygiene. Japan’s score has always been very low. In this context, Masako Mori believes that countries with smaller gender differences tend to have higher fertility rates, which explains how gender inequality and declining puberty are intertwined. Therefore, she initiated the idea of “inventing a situation where women can both become familiar with children and have individual movements that shine brightly.”.
Returning to the workplace with numerous achievements
Although the participation rate of East Asian women in rest is relatively high worldwide, there are still some underlying reasons that hinder Japanese housewives from returning to the workplace. For example, the corporate culture in Japan is not optimistic about women returning to the workplace. In 2023, The Japan Times mentioned this phenomenon, and according to data analysis, once Japanese women retire without formal rest – in many cases because they become mothers – they find it difficult to return to the workplace. For women who make these choices to return, it is not only difficult to strike a balance between rest and family chores, but companies will also use a trusting eye to treat job seekers with “gaps” in experience. According to the 2019 research review, about 30% of housewives who rejoin the workplace quickly quit.
Japan’s conservative understanding of gender cooperation also hinders women’s return to employment. The cooperation of Japanese women in modern families can be traced back to the early 20th century. According to the materials provided by the National Institute of Education and Strategy in Japan, with the comfort of peace between Japan and Russia and the First World War, Japanese society has grown rapidly and the family system has also undergone changes – unlike conservative patriarchal small families, the focus family composed of two generations of spouses and children has increased. In these families, modern gender cooperation, where men rest and girls do household chores, has also become popular.
On January 17, 2024, in Tokyo, Japan, Japan, Japan Airlines Chief Customers Minato and Mitsuzuko (right) will become the company’s president from April 1, becoming the first female president in the airline’s history.
In 2022, Japanese leader Fumio Kishida stated that the system created during the Showa period, as well as the fixed understanding of gender cooperation between men leading outside and women leading inside, still exist. In 2022, 80% of women still do household chores, while only 17% of men who enjoy maternity leave will do so. In married couples, Japanese women spend five times more time doing household chores than men.
In addition, the immaturity of family law enforcement has also become an obstacle. According to a 2024 report by The Economist, Japan’s tax and welfare policies do not encourage married women to take a break, for example, because when the annual expenses for “childcare” are no less than 1.3 million yen (about 62000 yuan), they do not need to pay public pensions and adjustment plans. A previous government complaint showed that more than 1.1 million working women, in order to maintain this threshold, choose to limit their rest time and expenses.
The instability of Japanese women’s resting ability is also easily overlooked, especially for women returning to the workplace. Compared to men, women have a much higher dropout rate at the age of childbearing. They usually leave the workplace after getting married or getting to know their first child, and then return to the workplace as informal caregivers when the child grows up. In 2021, nearly 40% of mothers took non fixed breaks, which are usually non welfare and part-time breaks. Only 30% of mothers have a fixed position. According to data from Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare, the number of Japanese women’s resting capacity has increased by more than 30% in the past 40 years, but more than 50% of them are part-time resters.
In the context of Japanese civilization, women have a concern for becoming rulers, and the lack of guidance posts for Japanese women has also become an important achievement. Kathy Matsui stated in a 2024 interview with Mongolia that although the unemployment rate of women in Japan has improved, it is still difficult for them to transition from informal rest to management positions. According to data from Japan in 2023, women only account for 13% of the total number of executive positions in major listed companies. She believed that the authorities had limited potential to assist in adding female managers, and that shop owners also had an obligation to tap into human capital and create a situation where women could have a positive impact.


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