Gender inequality in Japan, 1975-2000 : individual preferences and social norms of care work
The Japanese economy differs from other OECD countries in a number of important respects. Though half the women in age group 15-64 have participated in the labour force since the 1950s, patterns of gender inequality at work have been very slow to change. In the period 1975-2000, women's monthly earnings remained approximately half of men's, and female labour force participation has stagnated at 50 percent. Fertility rates, meanwhile, have declined very sharply since 1975, without being accompanied by any marked increase in married women's paid employment. One particularly unusual feature of the Japanese economy is that well qualified married women are less likely than those with lower educational qualifications to remain in the labour force. The conventional explanations within neoclassical theory do not adequately explain these phenomena. They are based on the assumptions that people make decisions by considering income related factors. They suggest that technological advances will be associated with an increased participation of married women of in paid employment, and a particularly high participation rate for those with high qualifications; and that as a result, fertility rates will decline. The Japanese case does not conform to these expectations. In order to explain the Japanese case more sufficiently, this thesis develops an alternative analysis drawing on Nancy Folbre and Timur Kuran's work. In this model, individuals act upon preferences formed within a framework of social norms, and not merely in response to income generating factors. The thesis explores the constraints imposed by social norms and income related factors help explain the Japanese case.