[* Commentary in Japanese] [Tanaka's works] [* Explanatory notes for selected works]

Principal Earner and Accommodator in Household

an illustration of gender stratification process in contemporary Japan

TANAKA Sigeto (tsigeto(AT)nik.sal.tohoku.ac.jp)

Paper read at the Tokyo Meeting (March 2003, Tokyo University) of Research Committee on Social Stratification and Mobility (RC28), International Sociological Association.
The same papers are also available from the Tokyo Meeting official page.


This paper has two objectives: (1) formalization of some aspects of the gender stratification process in contemporary societies, and (2) a critical examination of the current Japanese gender-equal policy using the formal model of stratification.

I start with the illustration of household supply of labor by Obi Keiichiro (1969, Mita journal of economics, 62: 17-45). Obi points out that households always have two types of workers. One is "the principal earner" (PE), who takes the charge of earning income, with no responsibility for housework. The other is "the accommodator" (AC), who takes double roles of earner and housekeeper, according to the family needs.

Then I focus on the gender stratification process with differentiation between PE and AC through three stages as follows. The first stage is the sex-typed determination of the worker type: most men become PE, while most women become AC. The second stage is the working style differentiation between the two types of workers: AC often must give up full participation in paid work since they should arrange the hours between paid and unpaid work, while PE can fully participate in paid work continuously. The third stage is the determination of earnings: suppose the wage rate to be the same, PE earns more than AC in proportion to the ratio between their working hours. These processes constitute the gender stratification, in which men hold the advantage over women in earning power.

The second half of this paper contains critical examination of the Japanese gender policies with the latest findings. The Japanese Government has taken two kinds of measures against the gender stratification: (1) institution of established partial participation in the work system, such as parental leave, and (2) support to workers with household responsibilities for full participation in paid work, such as day-care centers and shorter working hours. These measures can be regarded as the measures against the third and the second stage, respectively, of the above-mentioned gender stratification process.

Recent quantitative studies have revealed these measures to be insufficient to offset AC's disadvantage in the labor market. (1') Parental leave entails enormous opportunity cost for leave-takers, due not only to the lower payment during the leave, but also to the loss in the human capital that will damage their career in the long run. (2') It is estimated that AC can hardly make full participation in paid work, even if the conflict between work and family matters is successfully eased with the shorter working hours and the growing capacity of day-care centers, as scheduled in the current policy. In short, the current policies cannot realize any gender-equal society.

The last possible measure is against the first stage of the gender stratification process: the sex-typed PE/AC choice. This paper will conclude that in the future gender-equal society, if any, men and women will become AC with the equal probability. Men's partial employment due to household responsibility is therefore the key to gender equality, and is of an urgent importance as research question for the stratification study.

Tohoku Univ. / Arts and Letters / Applied Japanese Linguistics / Tanaka Sigeto
E-mail tsigeto(AT)nik.sal.tohoku.ac.jp

Created: 2002-11-25. Updated: 2003-12-18.