Organizer: Patricia Boling, Purdue University
Chair: Glenda S. Roberts, Waseda University
Discussant: Ito Peng, Hokusei Gakuen University
This panel offers several distinct approaches to taking gender as a central focus for analyzing recent and contemporary workplace and social welfare policies. These papers share the conviction that if one wants to make sense of labor and social policies in an era when women are participating in the workforce in greater numbers, sustaining lifelong involvement in paid work, and foregoing family formation in record numbers, one has to take gender seriously as a central analytic and social category. Thus, each analyzes policies in terms of their impact on womens workforce participation, and probes assumptions about an unspoken reliance on womens unpaid work of caretaking and reproduction in the informal sphere of home and family. Although the approaches and expertise vary considerablyBoling and Mikanagi look primarily at social welfare policies, Gottfried and Shire at workplace policy; Shire focuses only on Japan, the other three compare Japan with other countrieseach contributes to an emerging literature which makes critical engagement with gender central to serious social scientific research.
The four paper givers are all social scientists who make Japan a central focus of their research. Two are sociologists, two are political scientists, with interests that reflect differing concerns, with social structures and the organization of the workplace, and with how policies are shaped and which voices exercise influence over political decisions, which excluded or unheeded. The panel promises to afford an opportunity for rich cross-disciplinary exchanges about recent Japanese social and workplace policy.
Nakasone, Reagan, and Thatcher: Comparing Conservative Social Policies from Womens Perspective
Yumiko Mikanagi, International Christian University
Among many governments that adopted policies to reduce increasing fiscal deficits in the 1980s, the Thatcher, Reagan, and Nakasone governments stand out due to their similar use of "small government" rhetoric and reliance on so-called "supply-side" economic policies to cut fiscal deficits and stimulate economic growth. This paper will compare policies of the British, American, and Japanese governments in the 1980s with the purpose of explaining how and why their neo-liberal policies differed in terms of their definition of womens roles in their respective societies.
When one adopts a gender perspective, namely a perspective that incorporates both the actual and expected roles that men and women play in a given society, and sees how these policies affected men and women differently, these three cases will begin to present significant differences. The Nakasone government was the most hostile to women who work outside of their homes. Similarly, Reagan demonstrated his reluctance to promote gender equality from the outset of his first presidential campaign, though he sought to re-establish traditional families by passing policies that were hostile to those who did not comply with a traditional two-parent family model rather than adopting a comprehensive family policy that forced women to stay home and care for children and the elderly. While Thatcher also emphasized the virtue of families, her government did little to revive traditional families. The goal of this paper is to explain these variations in these three governments policies.
Kids vs. Careers? Gender, Justice, and Policies to Support Womens Productive and Reproductive Work
Patricia Boling, Purdue University
Despite moves toward regional integration and global competition, countries vary enormously in the approaches they take to addressing the needs of parents, children and families. I draw here on case study work in Japan, Germany, France, and the United States, attending to significant divergences and similarities in the problems different nations identify as central to social welfare, the approaches they take to solving these problems, and the extent of their reliance on informal, private-sphere arrangements to provide for the social welfare needs of families, especially children and old people. I consider the forces that have shaped such policy approaches, and attempt to reformulate the dominant way social scientists have categorized welfare states. I propose shifting the focus from the degree to which states de-commodify workers (that is, make them less at the mercy of the market for necessities and earnings), to the degree to which they foster gender equality by easing the tensions between unpaid reproductive work and paid work, making women less dependent on their status as wives, mothers, or widows for financial security and benefits like health care, and fostering greater variety and openness in gender roles.
Gender and Marginal Employment: The Future of the Japanese and German Employment Systems?
Heidi Gottfried, Wayne State University
In this paper, I assess and compare the supposed successes of the Japanese and German employment system by focusing on the rise of marginal female employment. The argument focuses on the institutionalization of a class and gender compromise which embedded a strong male-breadwinner gender contract, compromising womens positions and standardizing employment contracts around the needs, interests and authority of men. In both countries, womens secondary employment status often renders them dependent on husbands or the state for income and create stark insider/outsider forms of segmentation. Through an examination of labor and social policies in both countries, I highlight how the embedded nature of this model in the world of work and welfare, and the different principles of organization in the public and private spheres, constrain options for reform and renewal. The paper concludes with an examination of whether attempts to weaken the traditional breadwinner model in the face of current economic problems may in fact lead to undermining the conditions for core employees, and the pillars of success that supported this form of employment in the past.
Flexible Equality: Men and Women in Employment in Japan
Karen Shire, Universitšt Duisburg
In Japan, as in other post-industrial societies, the equalization of employment opportunities for women has developed in parallel with the breakdown of the model of normal employment. In this paper we examine labor market policy debates and reforms coterminous with the 1999 reform of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOL) in Japan. Policy debates about flexible working hours and relations (sairyou-rouddusei) in 1999 and earlier, were projected at making employment of core male employees more flexible, while the removal of protections for working women in the Labor Standards Act aimed at creating a flexible, but marginal, female working force. In both cases, flexible working hours (loosening restrictions on overtime in the male case, and on nightwork in the female case) were the main objects of reform from the employers perspective. As a result, the chances for integration of female workers into the core workforce, established by the 1999 reform of the Equal Employment Opportunities Act, have been checked by the tendency, further enabled by the revision of the Labor Standards Act, to employ women as part-time, temporary and marginal workers. Changes made to core male working conditions, while also increasing the flexible use of male labor, nonetheless, secure the core role of male employees while continuing to discourage normal working biographies for women.