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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Workplace Norms for Men Help Keep Fertility Low in Japan

I have often mentioned the various elements of Japanese (and other East Asian, as well as Southern and Eastern European) cultures that help to keep fertility below replacement level. One of the key ingredients is gender inequality and a paper just out in Demographic Research highlights one aspect of this in Japan. Nobuko Nagase and Mary C. Brinton about "The gender division of labor and second births: Labor market institutions and fertility in Japan." The main point is that when both husband and wife work and have one child already, the likelihood of having a second child is lower if the husband/father is working long hours and cannot contribute to housework and child-care. Two children are a lot more work than just one, and if the wife is going to have to shoulder the entire burden, she is less likely to want to go for number two.
Numerous studies have documented the extremely low amount of time that Japanese men devote to housework and childcare (Feyrer, Sacerdote, and Stern 2008; Tsuya, Bumpass, and Choe 2000; Tsuya et al. 2013). According to the Japanese Cabinet Office’s 2014 White Paper on Children, Japanese fathers of preschool children spent an average of 1.07 hours per week on housework and childcare, compared to over two hours for fathers in France and the United Kingdom and over three hours in the United States, Germany, Sweden, and Norway.
To be sure, men are likely to work more hours than women in most societies, but in Japan this is reified in a way unlike in other countries:
This paper has focused on the Japanese employment system, a system of labor practices and work norms that continues to apply especially to male university graduates working in large firms. The system is based on an implicit contract between employer and employee in which the employer promises job security and future wage increases in exchange for employees’ high work commitment and willingness to work overtime and relocate when ordered to by the company. This package of employment practices is supported by Japanese Supreme Court rulings. The speed of promotion and the amount of future wage increases depend on the evaluations of managers, beginning in the early years of a man’s career and extending throughout his working life. A highly gendered division of labor at home is a rational response to this system, as it facilitates men’s ability to fully engage in the intra-company competition for promotion that characterizes the early career stage.
This is fine if women are stay-at-home moms, but many are not, and therein lies the clash between a society wanting men to work all the time and a society that would prefer women to transition to a second birth. 

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