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'Equal Employment Opportunity Law System' and Women (cont.)

Bill Gordon

October 1998

3. Long Working Hours

Yoneda identifies long working hours as one of the principal characteristics of the 'equal employment opportunity law system' (246-247). These long working hours continue today in Japan. Since Japanese employees work much unreported 'service' overtime for which no wages are paid, accurate statistics on the number of working hours are difficult to obtain. A 1994 Economic Planning Agency report indicates men worked an average of 2,508 hours per year, and one in six men worked over 3,100 hours, which is considered to be in the danger zone of karôshi (death from overwork). In contrast, women worked on average 2,002 hours per year (Nakano 1996, 73). According to 1992 official statistics, the average annual working hours in the U.S., the U.K., and France were 1,960 hours, 1,910 hours, and 1,680 hours respectively. In Japan, the official statistics indicated annual working hours of 2,020, but this did not include unpaid overtime hours which were included in the figures previously cited (NHK 1995, 99).

In the chapter written by Yoneda, she stresses how in the 1980s Japan was rapidly moving toward a 24-hour-a-day working environment (246-247). Although this trend can be seen somewhat, especially in large cities like Tokyo, I believe Yoneda overemphasizes this trend as an important factor related to long working hours and to women's employment. Long working hours existed before this trend to a 24-hour-a-day working environment, and no source I consulted in writing this essay mentions this as a factor in the employment situation of Japanese women. If anything, such an environment may provide more flexibility in opportunities for working mothers.

Effect on Families
Extremely long working hours provide a strong disincentive to young women wanting to follow managerial and professional career paths previously dominated by men. Most women find that having both a family and a professional career is impossible.

Long working hours, in addition to beliefs concerning traditional gender-based division of labor, cause men to not take greater responsibilities in family matters. According to a recently published government White Paper on Leisure Activities, 52% of male respondents of a survey answered that they never participate in household chores such as cleaning, laundry, cooking, and shopping (Iwao 1996). Based on a 1996 survey, husbands in double-income households spend an average of 7 minutes per day on housekeeping and 3 minutes on child care, whereas wives spend 3 hours, 35 minutes on housekeeping and 19 minutes on child care. For single-income households, husbands spend 5 minutes per day on housework and 8 minutes on child care, whereas wives spend 5 hours, 2 minutes and 1 hour, 30 minutes respectively (Statistics Bureau 1997).

4. Non-Regular Employees

Yoneda writes that the second characteristic of the 'equal employment opportunity law system' is the spread of the use of non-regular, unstable employment (248-249). This category of non-regular, unstable employment includes contract workers, persons working at home, temporary employees, part-time workers, and workers dispatched from personnel agencies. This category of workers is often referred to as part-time employees, but this term has been avoided in this essay because many so-called part-timers work only one or two hours less per day than regular full-time employees. The term non-regular employees has been used in this essay to emphasize that these workers do not receive the same benefits as regular full-time employees and generally can be easily hired and dismissed. More than half of the non-regular employees work in small firms with less than 30 employees, and about 85% work in the service, sales, and manufacturing industries (K. Tanaka 1995, 301).

Reasons for Growth
The percentage of female workers working as non-regular employees has increased continuously from 9% in 1960 to 31% in 1992 (K. Tanaka 1995, 301). The primary reason companies hire part-time workers is to reduce personnel expenses, whereas the principal reason for using employees dispatched from personnel agencies and contract workers is to obtain certain technical skills. The three principal reasons for employees working part time are being able to work at convenient times, earning money to supplement their family income, and wanting to work shorter hours and fewer days. Contract employees work mainly to utilize their technical skills and qualifications, to be able to work at convenient times, and to earn money at something because they can not find a company where they are able to work as a regular employee. (Keizai Kikakuchô 1997, Sect. 1.2.4, Graph 1-2-22)
High Hourly Wages for Professional Work
Yoneda mentions that even though highly-educated women get married, their ideal would be to work part-time hours in a professional job and to make use of their technical skills and knowledge by getting work through a temporary personnel agency or by being self-employed (250). There are currently more opportunities for high-paying professional part-time work for women than there were when the 'equal employment opportunity law system' was implemented in 1986. However, the head of Pasona, one of Japan's largest temporary personnel agencies, notes that one of the main reasons his firm exists is the 'insufficient utilisation of women in the Japanese work force'. The demand for temporary personnel, including women, has been increasing throughout the 1990s, especially in specialized fields such as software development, accounting, computer-aided design, and data processing (Hulme 1996). On the other hand, highly-educated women tend to marry men with higher education, who in turn receive higher earnings, which reduces the economic incentive for these women to find work outside the home (Murdo 1993).
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Introduction | Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3
Section 4 | Section 5 | Section 6 | Section 7 | Bibliography
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