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Title: Life choices : university-educated mothers in a Japanese suburb
Author: Sasagawa, Ayumi
ISNI:       0000 0001 3553 4131
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2001
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This thesis addresses how Japanese university-educated mothers in a suburban context make the most of their lives. The chief focus is a group of women who have chosen not to pursue a career outside the home. The expansion of numbers of university-educated women in post-war Japan has not made a great impact on the pattern of women's labour force participation as a whole. The majority of university graduate women enter employment immediately after graduation, but once they leave the workplace, especially on child-birth, they tend not to return to work afterwards, while women from a lower educational background are more likely to do so after their children grow up. I attempt to show how women's and mothers' multiple roles in both the public and the domestic spheres, are related to an exclusion of university-educated mothers from working outside the home. Firstly, university-educated women have received contradictory messages from society. Although university education is regarded as a key to access a privileged social position and professional success, educators have not necessarily encouraged female students to pursue a long-term career. Rather, for women, they have stressed developing their 'special talent', i.e. motherhood. Moreover, the field of employment has not been in favour of hiring university graduate women. In many Japanese firms, university graduate men are placed on a managerial track and women are automatically classified in a group of assistant workers. University graduate women who pursue a managerial career are therefore in an anomalous position. Secondly, mothers are treated in the same way in society irrespective of educational attainments. University-educated mothers have less interest in working outside again, because they well know the fact that almost all the paid work available to mothers is so-called 'housewife's part-time work', which does not require any special skills or abilities. In addition, socialisation of compliant mothers is one of the main aims of community activities organised by local government. Nevertheless, it cannot be said that university-educated mothers in contemporary Japan are simply tied down to mothering duties at home. As the term 'professional housewife' shows, Japanese housewives were granted relatively high status as a manager of the household in the domestic sphere. However, university-educated mothers are not attracted to the status of 'perfect' housewife any more. Rather, they are expanding their field of activities into a public sphere named 'community society' through mothers' networks. They want to have something more meaningful to help them feel fulfilled than being simply engaged in mothering or unskilled labour. In the community, they take part in various activities, e.g. a mother-child group to change the world around them in a better way for children; or in a study group to broaden their horizons. Instead of full-time economic activities, they are seeking for alternative means for self­ development in the public sphere.
Supervisor: Hendry, Joy ; Ribbens-McCarthy, Jane Sponsor: Royal Anthropological Institute
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral