Japanese Gender Inequality and Work-Life Balance

And interesting article, but I am surprised that of all the possible causes you examine for the decline of the Japanese population you did not mention any of the two factors I would view as the most significant:

  • A conservative macho culture, where women are supposed to stay home with the children while men are the bread winners.
  • Lack of work-life balance. The Japanese workplace is famous for its long work hours and demanding bosses. Not exactly friendly towards family life.

When analyzing a trend in a country I think it helps to look at many countries with similar trends. Japan is not alone. Across Europe we have seen almost every country with traditional gender roles have seen rapidly declining populations. The exceptions tend to be deeply religious societies, such as Ireland.

Nordic countries e.g. have for years gone against this trend and had higher birth rates. Why? Because of more gender equality. Women know that life and freedom is not over after she gets married. There will be a husband who will also help out to raise the children. She will not always have to be the one staying home with the kids.

The second component is work-life balance. Nordic workplaces are sympathetic to husbands leaving work early to take care of children. People are not labeled as “not taking work serious.” That means husbands will actually be available when needed to look after kids, so that the wife actually has an opportunity to have a break or to have a life beyond just being a mother.

Many traditional European countries have realized this problem and have done a lot to turn this trend around by offering more maternity leave and more flexible workplaces. Japan from all I have read is still a laggard in this area.

France is another country with a fairly high birth rate for a western country. It is not accident I think that they are known for having an extensive and cheap high quality child care system.

It is hard to go dating if you never have time away from work. I seem to remember watching a youtube video once about a westerner dating in Japan. One of the things he mentioned was that it kind of sucked because Japanese women pretty much never had any time off.

Japanese Economic Development is Fine

Looking at GDP growth for an economy where the population is shrinking does not make sense. It does not give a good sense of whether individuals are getting richer or poorer. You give the impression with the way you present data that the Japanese are getting poorer, but that is not the case.

Here is a GDP per capita at PPP in Japan from 2010 to 2020

We could use Trading Economics to look at any other country for comparison. Here is e.g. the UK.

In other words Japan is doing okay. Yes population decline causes problems. However Japan e.g. benefits from falling population in property prices which are not increasing. Buying a house is getting more affordable in Japan, while it is getting every more unaffordable in the UK e.g.

In many ways Japan may be what we should all aim for. We are overburdening the planet with ever growing population. A gradual decline in world population may be desirable as long as we can handle it.

But sure Japanese population decline may be impractically fast. Birth rates of 1.7 or something may be more desirable.

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Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

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