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Titill
en

A way out of the cul-de-sac? Japanese "Office Ladies", internationalism and work-life balance

Útgáfa
September 2010
Útdráttur
en

The topic of this essay is to explore future prospects of young Japanese women working as so-called Office Ladies in Japanese companies. A common cliché implies that women working in this position live a carefree and glamorous life. Since they usually still live with their parents they can spend their income on luxury brand fashion and accessories, travel and leisure. After five years or so they quit their job to get married and become full-time housewives. Their position gives no prospect of promotion whatsoever. In order to pursue a meaningful career, women have to postpone marriage and family or decide against it altogether. Even today, it is not possible to combine the two.
The aim of this essay is to try to prove this cliché wrong by finding out whether modern Japanese women working as general clerical employees but want to pursue more challenging careers have the possibility to realise their expectations without sacrificing family life.
The material used consists of field studies conducted by anthropologists and sociologists, newspaper articles, as well as data from Japanese Government sources. By comparing the results of the field studies with the information and statistical data from Japanese authorities a clearer picture of the future prospects of female clerical workers should be obtained.
It should be pointed out, though, that obtaining sources was subject to the author´s limited proficiency in the Japanese language, which prevented the use of, for instance, current newspaper articles or other material in the original language depicting different points of view than the ones outlined in the main sources. Since the main sources are field studies conducted over a longer period of time and published some time after, they can only reflect the status at that time, which was around the turn of the last century.
Moreover, this essay consists of the accumulation of information from various sources and their comparison, which is by no means coherent with the position of the author on this issue.
In the first chapter, the work of the typical Office Lady is defined and work conditions and environment described. Actions taken by the government and government authorities towards a social and professional environment of gender equality are the topic of the second chapter. In the third chapter, the different options of managerial or career-track (sōgōshoku) and general track (ippanshoku) positions are described as well as the seemingly still existing glass ceiling women hit when trying to climb the career ladder in Japanese firms. The fourth chapter deals with the issue of marriage and family life and how they collide with modern women´s ambitions. Traditions concerning the “appropriate marriage age” (tekireiki), traditional gender roles and the growing discontent among women with those traditions are looked at as well as problems women face when they are not readily willing to quit their jobs at marriage or at a certain age. Modern women´s desire for a new lifestyle with more fulfillment in both life and work is the topic of the fifth chapter. Some look towards Western countries which are seen as an environment of equality and freedom for self-fulfillment. The sixth chapter describes so-called “internationalism”: ways women have found to escape still existing gender discrimination, by seeking education and work in a western environment both in their home country and, increasingly, abroad as well.

Birting
21.9.2010


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