Equal employment opportunities for Japanese women : changing company practice
The central aim of this thesis is to examine the extent to which the growing pressures for equal opportunity between the sexes has forced Japanese companies to adapt and modify their employment and personnel management practices in recent years. It analyses the major social and economic factors prompting Japanese companies to adopt more open employment policies towards women since the mid-1970s and the change programmes introduced by management. The thesis especially looks at how companies have reacted to the 1985 Equal Employment Opportunity Law and in the light of this considers how far the present legislation will bring about fundamental changes in the Japanese employment system towards more egalitarian treatment of women workers. A detailed case study was conducted at Seibu Department Stores Ltd., both before and after the introduction of the EEO Law, as a critical test of the possibility of introducing equal opportunities for women in a large Japanese company. Seibu was chosen because it is a big employer of women and is a company operating in an industry which has strong economic and- commercial incentives to offer women better career opportunities. All the more important, Seibu is regarded as a 'leading edge' company in personnel management reforms. The study reveals that despite many economic and social reasons that were in favour of change towards greater sexual equality in Seibu, and especially after the introduction of the EEO Law, change towards more egalitarian treatment of women has been very limited. This study illustrates the depth of the resistance to change in the core employment practices in large Japanese companies. The present EEO Law has little potential for undermining the structural mechanisms which perpetúate sexual job segregation in the employment system. The final part of the thesis speculates on the future prospects of introducing equal opportunities for women in Japanese companies. In the light of the present socio-legal constraints, the author puts forward a number of practical policy suggestions for engendering more pervasive long-term changes towards equal employment for Japanese women.