Gender, labour, and migration in Japan

Authored by: Helena Hof , Gracia Liu-Farrer

The Routledge Companion to Gender and Japanese Culture

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138895201
eBook ISBN: 9781315179582
Adobe ISBN:


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Labour shortage resulting from low fertility rate and population ageing is threatening Japan’s economic well-being. Importing foreign labour and encouraging women’s economic participation are therefore considered necessary means to sustain Japan’s economic growth. However, reluctance towards immigration, anachronistic gender norms, and sexual segregation in Japanese workplaces persist and manifest themselves in the conditions experienced by immigrant women—those foreign women who have entered Japan as both productive and reproductive labour. This chapter reviews existing literature on two broad categories of women immigrants: those who come to fulfil particular gendered labour as entertainers, marriage migrants, and care workers, and foreign women who enter corporate Japan. Regardless of their migration channels, educational backgrounds, and countries of origin, immigrant women inevitably bump against the gender and ethnic barriers of Japanese society. However, because they are a much-needed labour force, foreign women can challenge the rigid structures by asserting their subjectivity in the intimate realm and making their voices heard in the corporate field. Their struggles call attention to the lack of equity of the migration regime, as well as the inertia of Japanese gendered workplaces.

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