Accepted paper:

What is wrong with Abe's "womanomics"?


Yuko Ogasawara (Nihon University)

Paper short abstract:

In-depth interviews with working married men found that people are more open to assume new roles than to give up traditional roles. The paper argues that promoting women to join the workforce as in Abe's "womanomics" overlooks the real hindrance to the breakdown of the gendered division of labor.

Paper long abstract:

Prime Minister Abe vowed to make Japan a society where "women shine" and declared commitment to increasing the share of women in leadership positions to 30 percent. He exhorted women to join the workforce, however, without adequately considering how people live, how they want to live, and how or if this could change. This paper focuses on Japanese people's perception of gender roles: how do people want to live. Based on interviews to male respondents whose wives have worked fulltime continuously since graduation, I found three behavioral patterns among the men: not sharing childcare with their wives and not making adjustments to how they work; sharing childcare but not making adjustments in work; and sharing childcare and making such adjustments. In order to understand the variation in people's values and preferences that are not readily apparent in their behavior, I decomposed people's beliefs on gender roles into those concerning traditional gender roles and those concerning non-traditional gender roles. I found that people tend to be more tolerant of assuming new roles than of giving up old ones. In addition, there is a force beyond general beliefs about gender roles that pushes men to work. This force, which I call the "work norm," does not interfere with women's employment or men's childcare. Promoting women's labor force participation as it is pursued in Abe's "womanomics," while important, overlooks the real hindrance to the breakdown of the gendered division of labor in Japan. Japanese people act according to the stereotypical gender roles more out of inability to let go of their traditional roles than out of reluctance to assume new roles. I argue that attempts by Abe's "womanomics" to intervene in people's private lives are flawed, because, in order to bring about change in the gendered division of labor in the society, they must address the issue of how to emancipate people from their traditional roles: men from the work norm and women from the mothering norm.

panel S6_09
Women and Foreign Workers in the Japanese Labour Market