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Change and Continuity in the Sexual Division of Labor

Marxist-feminist theory vs. rationalistic economics

(Japan Society of Family Sociology, 7th annual meeting at Tokyo, 1997.7.24.)

TANAKA Sigeto (Faculty of Human Sciences, Osaka University)

Women's employment has been rising these years. To evaluate such movement, we face a question. How does related changes in women's employment status to changes in the sexual division of labor? To answer the question, it is important to distinguish two types of women's employment.

The first type is to be called a serious challenge to the sexual division of labor. If a woman perticipate into employment in such manner, she is no longer able to undertake all of the housework. Thus such type of women's employment cause the collapse of the sexual division of labor.

In the second type, women's employment is only secondary to housework. A woman engages paid work only if her housework does not hinder it. This type of women's employment is more friendry to the sexual division of labor.

From the empirical viewpoint, we consider that these two types of women's employment correspond to full-time (and long-term) employment and part-time (or short-term) one. Though this correspondence is incomplete in practice, for which we will look out later, we accept this simple correspondence for a while.

Over the changes in these two types of women's employment, two schools, Marxist-feminist theory (cf. Ueno [1]) and rationalistic economics (cf. Higuchi [2]), have argued with each other. In this paper, we will specify their argument with a mathematical model. Then we will test the two theories with empirical evidences.


1 A basic model
2 Model of rationalistic economics
3 Model of Marxist-feminists
4 Evidences
5 Conclusion

1 A basic model

Let x be the strength of the insentive pulling out a woman into employment. The insentive x is determined by various factors surrounding the woman: the wage rate presented to her, the oppotunity cost that she lost if she work employed, social norms, and so on.

Her employment behavior depends on the relations among x and two thresholds P, F (P<F):

x < P
... not employed
P <= x < F
... part-time or short-term employment
F <= x
... full-time and long-term employment .
In regards to the employment behavior of all women in a society, consider that x is distributed according to a probability density function Z(x). Assume that Z(x)>0 for all x.

Assume that all women in the society have the same value of the two thresholds P and F.

Both Rationalistic Economints and Marxist-Feminists concur in the view that the insentive pulling out women into employment has been increasing. Consider that the distribution of x is according to Z0(x), Z1(x), at two moment 0, 1. The increace in the insentive pulling women can be translated as follows:

Z1(x) = Z0( x - k ) . (1)
Equation (1) means that the distribution of x has shifted right by a constant k (>0).

The question where the two schools are antagonistic is about changes in the two threshold P and F with the shift of Z(x) stated in equation (1). Let P0, P1, F0, and F1 denote the values of P and F at the two moment 0,1. Then we go through our argument.

2 Model of rationalistic economics

In the idea of Rationalistic Economists, both P and F are considered as constant:
P1 = P0, F1 = F0 . (2)
Thus, whenever Z(x) shifts right, full-time and long-term employment of women must increase.

3 Model of Marxist-feminists

In the idea of Marxist-Feminists, P is constant while F shift along Z(x):
P1 = P0 , F1 = F0 + k . (3)
Thus, as F shifts right as rapid as Z(x), the decreace in the number of women who do not employed all pours into part-time or short-term employment.

4 Evidences

Time series data from Roudouryoku Chousa (the Survey of labor force: by Statistics Bureau of Japan) indicates the following [3: 153]:

Tanaka [3: 157] comfirmed the followings, with the personal history data from the 1985 SSM (Social Stratification and Social Mobility) Survey [4]:

Table 1. shows the results of an analysis of 1995 SSM data (A division, women only), with the same method as Tanaka [3]. This table indicates the following:

Table 1. Change in women's employment status (1995 SSM Survey)
 Age      C    (N) |   E    R    (N)
 60's   .216 ( 88) | .094 .820 (128)
 50's   .230 (126) | .147 .691 (136)
 40's   .214 (224) | .176 .449 (136)
 30's   .251 (167) |
 20's   .128 ( 47) |
 Total  .221 (652) | .140 .650 (400)
 V     .072(p>.10) | .241 (p<.01)

Those indexes might be disturbed by the changes in the system of support for child care. If support system is enough developed to lessen the burden of child care, even the complete sexual division of labor does not hinder women from continuous full-time employment. Now we make attempt to elaborate such disturbance.

First, other women in an extended family may take over the childrearing. We estimate such effect from the Japan Population Census data (Statistics Bureau, Management and Coordination Agency of Japan) [6: 254] [7: 308]. According to the result, the effect of such change on C is very small and negregible (-.007 in 20 years).

Second, the externalization of childrearing, such as baby shitting, and legal institutionalization of child-care leave should have been being developed. We conclude that the increase in the rate of full-time and long-term employment is small, as the development of such institution.

(Women in agriculture, self-employed, and in family enterprise are excluded from all analyses in this chapter.)

5 Conclusion

The evidences support the Marxist-feminist theory. There is a mechanism of two face in contemporary Japanese society: While women's participation into employment is prompt, their participation into full-scale employment is oppressed (look at the parameter k in the equations 1 and 3).

In the Marxist-feminist critics, this is called as the second and third compromise between capitalism and patriarchy [ Ueno : 1: 40f.] But such a expression can be only a ad hoc description. It should be our main issue to clarify the background mechanism.

Bibliography (all Japanese)

  1. Ueno Chizuko, 1985, Sihonsei to Kaji Roudou [Capitalism and housework], Kaimeisya.
  2. Higuchi Yoshio, 1991, Nihon Keizai to Syuugyou Koudou [Japanese economy and employment behavior], Touyou Keizai Sinpousya.
  3. TANAKA Sigeto,1996, "Sengo Nihon ni okeru Seibetu Bungyou no Doutai (The Changing Sexual Division of Labor in Postwar Japan)", Kazoku Shakaigaku Kenkyu (Japanese Journal of Family Sociology), 8: 151-161, 208.
  4. 1990, Gendai Nihon no Kaisou Kouzou [Stratification in Contemporary Japan] vol. 1-4, Tokyo Daigaku Syuppankai (University of Tokyo Press).
  5. 1995 SSM Chousa Kenkyuukai [1995 SSM Survey Project], 1996, 1995 SSM Chousa Code Book.
  6. Statistics Bureau, Office of Prime Minister, 1973, 1970 Population Census of Japan, Vol. 5, Results of Detailed Tabulation, Part 1, Division 2, Nihon Toukei Kyoukai.
  7. Statistics Bureau, Management and Coordination Agency of Japan, 1992, 1990 Population Census of Japan, Vol. 3, Results of the Second Basic Tabulation, Part 1, Nihon Toukei Kyoukai.

* This paper constitutes a part of 1995 SSM Survey Project; I acknowlege the Project's permission for using the data and publising the result. This paper is granted by Research Fellowships of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for Young Scientists.
[Contents] [ch. 1] [ch. 2] [ch. 3] [ch. 4] [ch. 5]
(C) Tanaka Sigeto
This paper will be presented at Japan Society of Family Sociology, 7th annual meeting at Tokyo: Waseda University, 1997.7.24.
A direct correspondence with the author is welcome.
Duplication in any form without the author's permission is forbidden.

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

Created at 1997-06-20. Last modified at 2002-04-22.