What has Changed in Japan? Case Studies of Women’s Life Paths from the Last Two Decades
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This paper examines some of the aspects of the overall transformation that is taking place in women’s position in present-day Japanese society. The paper’s special focus is on the changes that are occurring in women’s traditional roles within the family and how this influences women’s opportunities on the labour market. The first part of the article gives a general outline of the major changes that have affected Japanese women’s role within the institution of the family during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In the second part we present and analyse three case studies. The case studies depict three different life paths that illustrate the transformation that is going on in our own time. Analysis indicates that marriage as the only socially acceptable life path is no longer widely applicable and present-day Japanese society is more ready to tolerate alternative life choices. Although it is still true that gender equality continues to be seen as an aim that is hard to attain in Japan, recent changes indicate that radical changes in gender roles and modes of employment are inevitable and Japanese society is more than ever ready to embrace this transformation.