Monday, August 6, 2007

Women's work in Japan

Today's New York Times features an article on female labor force participation in Japan that discusses some of the challenges facing Japanese society. Aging in Japan is further along than elsewhere in the industrialized world, so in one sense their experiences offer a preview of what may await the rest of us.

Japan's labor force is already shrinking in absolute size, and it will continue to shrink as a result of smaller birth cohorts --- due to lower fertility --- replacing the aged.

As the Times article points out, you would think this kind of problem might facilitate greater female labor force participation. The nation needs more workers; where else will it get them? But unfortunately, the economic forces for change seem to be at least somewhat restrained by social pressures against change. It sounds like it is extremely difficult to be a female employee in Japan because of glass ceilings and issues with childbearing and maternity leave.