NGO Forum Workshop Report Summery

A Woman, A Wife or A Mother?
--A Controversy Regarding the Status of Women in the Family

From a Viewpoint of the Employment Problem in a Local City in Japan, Fukushima Prefecture

by Fukushima Prefecture Women's Association Conference

[English / Japanese]



Section 1:The Employment Problem of The Women Living in A Local City in Japan and The Direction of Solution -- The Analysis of The Consciousness Survey Concerning Women in Fukushima City

1. The awareness of people has been changing, but housework remains the domain of women.

2. The employment pattern of women doesn't show the shape of letter M, but women support the letter M pattern.

3. Discrimination between men and women

4 The possibilities afforded by life in a local city

5. Future problem--patriarchy that binds citizens and "busyness"

Section 2: The Actual Conditions of Men And Women Inequality in Fukushima Pref. ---The analysis of the questionnaire for this workshop.

Marriage and Work
Child birth, Childrearing and Work
Gender Inequality


It is a difficult problem to clear the woman discrimination which still exists strongly in Japan. Japan has accomplished a marvelous economic development through the postwar years. Even after oil crisis, it has continued an excellent economic growth and went through the days of bubble economy. Some people pointed the Japanese government's bureaucratic control of domestic companies (so called "Japan incorporation") and the high productivity of Japanese style management as reasons of the development. But we cannot overlook the man-orientedness of Japanese companies which lurked behind the scene and pushed the economic growth of Japan. While other advanced countries suffered to deal with the civil right movement of minorities in 1970's, Japan didn't need to struggle with such a problem, so it could continue efficient management even after oil crisis. Still, under the influence of international woman year, the law which provides even employment for both sexes was enacted in 1985. After that the system reformation started in Japan.

Even though the equal employment opportunity law largely expanded Japanese women's selection possibility, it did not revolutionize the man-oriented structure in Japanese society. Though the women in the big city were reported through key words such as "integrated employees,""career women,""DINKS" and "independent women," I wonder what happened in a local city. Fukushima located in southernmost part of "Tohoku": the northeast district in Japan. It takes 1-1.5 hours from Tokyo in Shinkansen, a super express train. After oil crisis, because of enhancement of Shinkansen and expressway, Fukushima attracted a lot of factories which employed more local people than ever. According to the NSI of 1995, however, the study environment including the number of libraries and the ratio of students who go on to schools of higher grade is worst here than any other prefecture. The medical treatment welfare in this prefecture is in the lowest grade in all Japan. Here women's housework working hour is the longest and family's social expenses are the highest. However, it can be said that the working environment, being the 7th place of all prefectures in synthesis, will open the work market most in northeast district in Japan. People in Fukushima don't have a strong intention to take a higher education and to rise in the world; they spend a lot of money in association and endure the insufficient medical care; housewives spend much time in housework and bear a lot of children. These characteristics suggest that the deep-rooted discrimination remains in this district. I moved into Fukushima in 1989, in the midst of the years of bubble economy, but I thought I didn't see any "career woman" here.

In 1994, I took charge of the analysis of "Consciousness Investigation Concerning the Women in Fukushima City" sponsored by Fukushima City, the seat of the Prefectural Government. The result is in the first section of this report. In this investigation, four following points are clarified.

1. Though the consciousness concerning work assignment on the basis of sex has changed, actually women take charge of housekeeping mainly.

2. Women's employment structure does not form the shape of M letter. But most women support the M type in which they can be engaged in babycare when the children are small.

3. 80.5% of men and 89.1% of women recognize men's unfair superiority in society.

4. People in the prime of life is too busy to participate even in a regional activity.

That is, the Fukushima citizens are fully aware that the sexual discrimination exists. They also recognized that they should change the working pattern in the offices and the men should take part in the housekeeping and childcare. They also admitted that such direction will make it possible for both sexes to participate in social activities. Though the direction is decided, they don't have any view of carrying it out.

In this workshop, I would like to think the way out again by listening to the opinions of other countries' women. Some of the solutions I can point out now is to improve the vertical system of administration, to renew the welfare policy which preserves the work assignment on the basis of sex, and to promote the policy which posits women as the independent workers. This is not impossible if the policy in the country is changed to the one to aim at the equality of men and women. It is needless to say that this makes the life of "company men" or "corporate warriors" impossible.

However, the reality is a recession. The pressure from the foreign countries has taught us that a drastic operation is necessary for the social structure of Japan. But it is not fully understood that the operation contains the conversion of this society into the one of sexual equality. The real cause of the lingering recession is the efficiency principle of man-dominated company society in Japan, but this theory is not yet be fully proved in the loud voices of de-regulation and market liberation. Moreover, the recognition that we have to reform the efficiency principle to overcome the discrimination structure does not become the nation-wide one. Therefore, it is hardly possible for the companies which must run their own management under the recession, to bear the cost for a structural revolution which might bring the harmony with the world in the long run.

Then the problem becomes two. First, we have to make clear that the causa proxima of a structural recession of present Japan is the efficiency principle of the man-dominated corporate organization. I mean "the efficiency principle" as follows: an extreme division of labor in which "company man" lacking the sense of citizenship but obtaining the desire of success cannot work enough to satisfy the company without a wife who does the reproductional works (housekeeping; childbirth; childcare) for her husband. Second, we have to expand in nationwide scale the following understanding: that the abolition of discrimination between men and women is the strategy of overcoming the structural recession. However, the difficulty here is that so many women don't want to confront publicly with the discrimination structure.


According to the result of the investigation above mentioned, in spite of the change of awareness and the high rate of working women, the reality that the work is allotted on the basis of sexual role is not so much changed. Then I executed the questionnaire survey to the women in Fukushima Pref. in the emergency. Through this second survey I hoped to see more closely the consciousness and reality supporting the sexual role. The questionnaire concentrated on how the women think about working and reproduction (housework, childbirth, childcare). The second section of this report is the analysis of the second questionnaire.

The number of replies reached 188 which were collected by NGO participants from Fukushima Pref. Among the respondents, 40's occupies 32% of the whole, housewife 28% and full-time worker 33%. So we cannot say that the repliers represent the lives of women in this prefecture. However, the following results may suggest the characteristics:the women who kept working reaches 40% and 50% retired in prime of life. This questionnaire survey shows more actually how the women in Fukushima think about working, reproduction and equality.

Section 1: The Employment Problem of The Women Living in A Local City in Japan and The Direction of Solution -- The Analysis of The Consciousness Survey Concerning Women in Fukushima City

1. The awareness of people has been changing, but housework remains the domain of women.

(1) In Fukushima a percentage of citizens lower than the national average believe that the place for women is in the home.

(2) A substantially large number of persons agree that men should take part in housekeeping. To the question of whether men should engage in childcare or housework, 16.5% of the men polled said,"We should do so positively," while 54,4% replied,"We should take part in it as much as possible." Combining the two responses indicates that all of 81.9% of the male respondents support their participation in housekeeping. Among the women surveyed, their answers were 30.3% and 60.5%, respectively, showing that fully 90.8% advocate the cooperation of men in taking care of the home.

(3) Nevertheless, housekeeping remains as the duty of women. Even women who hold a job must take charge of household chores, such as cleaning, minding the children and caring for the aged.

(4) In actual practice men do not help with the housekeeping. Aside from mere awareness wishful thinking - wherein 90+ percent of the women polled and more than 80 percent of the men consider that the male element should pitch in on the home front, we can say that there remains a remarkable difference between men and women with respect to their share of household duties.

2. The employment pattern of women doesn't show the shape of letter M, but women support the letter M pattern.

(1) To what extent are women working?

As seen by the graph(Figure 1[cut]), perhaps influenced by its separation of age brackets according to decades, the employment ratio of women gradually increases from those in their twenties to those in their thirties and forties. We fail to detect any drop. Conversely, the ratio of part-timers mounts notably among women in their thirties and forties. Thus, the pattern of women's employment as indicated in the graph evidently does not follow the shape of the letter M. We can, however, see the transition in their places of work, their vocation and working conditions as they shift from regular employment to part-time jobs in the thirties and forties age brackets.

(2) Many feel that women should make their occupation a lifelong proposition, but...

The majority of Fukushima citizens, as well as quite a few others throughout the nation, support the M-shaped pattern of women's employment, which signifies that they stop working when becoming pregnant and resume their work after the child has sufficiently grown. Noteworthy in this is that the percentage of opinion that women should retain their occupation on a lifetime basis is by far higher in Fukushima than the national average, which speaks well for the progressiveness of its populace.

(3) Obstacles when women try to continue working - housekeeping and childcare Many wonder what prevents women from continuing their work. All of 85.0% of the women surveyed and 80.7% of the men cited as the cause,"Housekeeping and childcare make a heavy burden for women."

(4) Why women continue working

Most women polled said,"I can't stand being with my mother-in-law all day at home." This answer was followed by,"We have two elderly people at home, and I don't want to have to face them all day long,"and,"If I don't work, who knows what my family or neighbors might say about me?" Replies such as these ascribe the woman's desire to work to abrasive relations between the housewife and her mother-in-law. By contrast, there were remarks like this, "Because there is someone (mother-in-law) who looks after the house," and,"My husband's parents live with us;my mother-in-law is in good health and can do much of the housework,so I hold a regular job." These answers underscore the presence of a mother-in-law as an advantage. For better or for worse, three generations of the same family residing under one roof distinctly influenced the responses.

(5) Part-time jobs

In Fukushima 64.0% of all part-timers and 83.0% of female part-timers were married. As for why they worked part-time, 45% of the married women polled mentioned family factors such as compatibility between housekeeping/childcare and work, securing family approval, and the duty of a spouse as their reasons. However, if we interpret another of their responses,"We like to work during the hours we choose,"as the desire to work at times that do not interfere with house hold chores, then all of 72.3% of the married women surveyed chose a part-time job with poor working conditions because of family limitations.

3. Discrimination between men and women

(1) The state of discrimination between men and women

To the question,"Generally speaking, do men and women differ in social standing?", 80.5% of the men polled and 89.1% of the women replied that men tended to occupy a higher position although there were comments that such a query was not relevant.

(2) Discrimination between men and women in education

More than 60% of the women surveyed replied that girls should at least complete a two-year junior college course, and 80% said that boys should be graduated from a university. Men gave similar responses, but only 37.3% thought that girls should complete college or higher, while 70.9% felt that boys should acquire a university education. Although most of the pollees replied that the matter should be left to the boys and girls themselves, in which we somehow find relief, there exists a marked distinction between boys and girls in the eyes of their parents.

(3) How, then, can we eliminate the discrimination between men and women?

4. The possibilities afforded by life in a local city

(1) The actual status of citizen participation in community affairs.

(2) Why do so few actually take part in community activities?

Evidently the reason is that most of them spend too much time working.

(3) Community activities

(4) Why don't more persons join in their community functions?

For this, the biggest excuse cited was that men are too occupied with their job. The same went for women, though fewer in number.

(5) What is needed for women to gain greater inroads in community affairs?

Most persons surveyed answered,"Men should establish a support system to make childcare and women's employment compatible," with 54.1% for men and 52.9% for women. Men and women pollees in their twenties and thirties gave more of this answer than respondents of higher age groups.

In particular, 69.7% of the women in their twenties emphasized this factor. "Housekeeping should be shared by men" represented an answer given by 39.8% of the women surveyed and 34.3% of the men. Regarding other comments voiced by women, thoughts like the "Positive attitude of women and understanding by their mother-in-law are both necessary,"and "Understanding on the part of men is a must" clearly expresses the expectations of women with respect to the male constituent and mothers-in-law.

(6) What is required for men to make advancements into community functions?

As a means to stimulate the participation of men in community affairs and/or family life, most pollees answered that it was essential to "reduce the number of working hours in order to increase leisure time. "There were other viable opinions, too, such as "the basic salary should be raised to eliminate overtime and thereby cut down on working hours," that they "can't earn enough without working overtime,"Japan's working system would be totally transformed," and that they "value and commend enterprises which contribute to community service." These view-points refer to the management policy of firms regarding their employees' working patterns. They can also be taken as the plea of the younger generation in their prime of life that, were their work load lessened, they would be quite willing to take part in community activities or help their family at home.

(7) Being busy

Women have far less time for sleeping and eating--so-called refreshment time--than do men. Forty to fifty hours of refreshment time a week works out to roughly six or seven hours a day for sleeping, eating and watching TV. The age brackets in which more than a tenth of the persons surveyed spend life with such a meager amount of refreshment time are men in their fifties(10.5%) as opposed to women in their twenties(11.7%), thirties(15.9%), forties(15.6%), and fifties(17.8%). The percentage dropped off among women in their sixties. From this we can deduct that a greater number of women than men lead a hard life.

5. Future problem--patriarchy that binds citizens and "busyness"

The survey revealed that awareness of equality between the sexes is higher among the citizens of Fukushima than throughout the nation as a whole. But the problem remains that women in reality hold a job while engaged in housekeeping and as a result they have fallen victim to "busyness." In spite of the high percentage of working women and of those who think that men should take part in childcare and household chores, the unassailable fact is that only women are managing the housework.

Possibly the sense of values maintained by the senior members in the family who prize patriarchy influences their sons and daughters-in-law, thereby constraining the latter's minds visibly or invisibly.

Now is the time for women to discard their apprehensions and address the senior family members on the subject of how men and women should cooperate with each other. Their mothers-in-law, being a woman, must have had disagreeable experiences under the pressure of patriarchy, and therefore do not completely relish what took place a generation earlier. It is important for women to gain an understanding of their mother-in-law in their effort to abolish the hardship because of being a woman. What became clear from the United Nations Decade for Women, that ran from 1976 through 1985, was to "realize equality of the sexes by abolishing the assignment of roles according to sex." In other words, the ratio of men working in all occupations and ranks should be adjusted to within a range of 40 to 60 percent to enable men and women to work together in every sphere of society.

In Japan since 1985 reforms of systems and legislation aimed at promoting the equality of sexes were implemented, such as the enactment of a domestic action program, ratification of the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the passing of an equal job opportunity law for men and women, and revision of the curricula for homemaking.

However, the objective ruled by the United Nations was like a dream compared with the actual situation prevailing in Japan at the time. Accordingly, considering the deep-rooted tradition of job assignment mainly on the basis of sex and the unpreparedness of corporate environment in which women can work with ease, decisions have been made to execute measures aiming at change in awareness peculiar to Japan that affects the equality of sexes. Research on this awareness is part of the measures to improve the lot of women.

Regardless of this effort, and while coexisting with the prevailing situation, reorganization of the concept that"family-dependent means man-centered" is being promoted. Its measures include upward revision of the legal inheritance portion pertaining to the spouse in civil law(1980), a special tax cut for part-timers as well as an allowance for aged parents living with the family by way of several tax reforms since 1984, annuity rights of housewives in the basic annuity(1985), and the introduction and expansion of a special allowance for the spouse in donation tax and income tax(1985-87). After all, these measures are intended to assess the role of women who basically play the role of housewife/mother in the home while doing part-time work as required, thus providing a better "life guarantee" for their family by adding to their husband's income. In this manner, the women continue their time-honored role as classified by sex.(Mari Osawa, Beyond the Enterprise-Centered Society(Ji-ji Press, Ltd.))

The citizens of Fukushima are fully aware that discrimination between men and women still exists. To resolve this state of affairs they consider it important to revise the working pattern at shops or offices so that men can also take charge of housekeeping and childcare. They also know that by accomplishing this men and women alike can take part in community activities. The direction women should take is obvious, but the woeful fact remains that they have no idea how to resolve the issue.

It is urgently desired that the national government rectify its system of vertical administration as well as its welfare policy so glaringly devised to differentiate between men and women, so that women can be engaged as independent workers on an equal footing with men.

Section 2: The Actual Conditions of Men And Women Inequality in Fukushima Pref. ---The analysis of the questionnaire for this workshop.

The age structure of the respondents is like below: Among the 188 respondents, the 40's accounts for 32%, and the 50s 21%, that is, the cohort of 40-59 accounts for more than 50s of the total. The unbalanced proportion of the age structure(the 20s 16%, and the 30s 18%) reflects the age structure of the NGO participants from Fukushima Pref. who collected those 188 replies.

The types of employment of the respondents: The rate of full-time employee accounts for 33% of the total followed by the rate of housewife 28%. The rate of working woman, including married part-time employee, self-employed of family enterprise worker, and agricultural worker, is 59%; This rate is higher than the national rate of labor power 15 years old or more, 1993.

The rate of the married part-time employee accounts for 14%, lower than the rate of housewife 28%. This proportion derives from these facts: Firstly, the NGO participants from Fukushima Pref. belong to various types of women's association to which a large portion of the respondents also belong. Secondly, this questionnaire was not conducted on company basis.

Cf. The national survey on labor force participation rates shows the following age proportion: the cohort(15-19 years old) accounts for 17.4%, (20s-24) 74.5%, (24-29) 64.3%, (30s-34) 52.7%, (35-39) 61.7%, (40-44) 70.3%, (45-49) 71.9%, (50s-54) 66.9%, (55-59) 56.4%, (60-64) 40.1%, (65-) 16%.(Fujin Hakusho, 1994. p.275) The rate of women labor force, especially of the cohort of the 40s, has been rising sharply.

The type of labor force participation by age group: The proportion of housewife expands in older age groups: the 20s 7%, 30s 21%, 40s 21%, 50s 65%, 60s 25%. The proportion on the full-time employee is concentrated in the cohort of the 40s. The proportion of the married part-time employee is the largest in the cohort of the 30s.

The marital status: the structure of marital status of the respondents is as follows: those who are unmarried account for 14%, married 80%, single via married life(i.e. those who divorced or widows) 4%(Figure 4). Comparing to the national census 1990 (unmarried 23.4%, married 60.4%, single via married life 15.5%), the married is allotted considerably a large proportion.

The rate of the married women in age groups is as follows: 30s of the 20s is married, 91%(30s), 97%(40s), 100%(50s), 95%(60s). These rates indicates the tendency that the opinions of the respondents 30s years old or more can be considered as the opinions of the married.

The average age of the first marriage is 24.2 years old; younger than the national average(27.1 years old, 1993). The average age of the first child birth is 25.9 years old. The average number of children is 2.19, which corresponds to the rate of childbirth during the period of high economic growth.

Marriage and Work

178 out of 188 respondents answered the questions about the relation between marriage and work. Figure 5 shows those who left the labor force account for 51%, those who are working in double harness(dual income) 40%, have not worked outside the home 9%.

The rate of those who have never worked outside of the home is 9%. The rate is high in the cohort of the 20s including students,the number increases with age.

We asked the respondents to explain the reason of quitting. Quitting upon marriage is the most outstanding answer. Those descriptions are summed up as follows: (1) The company and society consider quitting upon marriage as natural. Including the case that husband has to move by rotation among work positions. (2) Willingly become a housewife. (Mainly the respondents in their 40s or 50s) (3) Because of the distance from the new house, or the family reason of husband. (4) Childrearing or caring of the elder.

Child birth, Childrearing and Work

The rate of those who left the labor force upon childbirth accounts for 26% out of those who quit, which comes next to those who left upon marriage(45%). Figure 7[cut] shows the percentage why you quitted upon childbirth. The major group (64%) explained the reason as her own willing to concentrate on childrearing. The lack of confidence in the consistence of childrearing with work, which mainly derives from the poor conditions of the work places. Next comes the lack of social supporting system.

The belief that women have to be responsible upon household duties and childrearing lies on the base, requiring the power and circumstance to consist with both tasks.

Considering child birth and childrearing as the reproduction of the self, it is apparently the problem upon both sexes. In actual life, however, women have owed the burden to balance of these task and work out of the home, temporarily left the labor force to be responsible upon childrearing. Those who kept on working in double harness was supported by her own mother or other-in-law, i.e., supported by women of the family. Men, however, should take part in these tasks, as the reproduction of the self is the problem of men as much as of women.

Gender Inequality

1. "Gender inequality in daily life."

According to the national report for the 4th International Women's Conference, actual gender equality has not been achieved yet in various aspects. 74% of the respondents of our questionnaire agreed the opinion mentioned above. The rate of the positive description accounts for more than 80% in the cohorts of young age(20s and 30s), the rate decreases with age.

2. "When and Where do you feel the inequality?"

Three quarters of the respondents admit the existence of inequality.

A. Inequality in the work places
(1) Tea serving and cleaning are supposed to be female job.
(2) Type of works divided upon gender.
(3) Conditions
(4) Gender stratification
(5) Quitting upon marriage
(6) Starting job

B. Inequality in the region
(1) Rejecting the opinions of women
(2) Women can not become the representative of the regional organization.
(3) Discrimination especially by the aged men.
(4) Androcentric society deriving from the family unit system.

Fukushima Prefecture Women's Association Conference
(Rumi KURIHARA, Fumiko GOTOH, Midori TSUJI, Yumiko HAYASHI.)
Office of Prof. Lumi KURIHARA,
Faculty of Administration and Social Sciences, Fukushima University.
Fukushima-City, 960-1296, JAPAN.
Phone: 024-548-5151. FAX: 024-548-5174

This page written by TAKAHASHI, June.