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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Gender Equality and Women's Identity in Japan

April 11, 2001 / 18.30

Meguro Yoriko (Professor, Sophia University, Tokyo)

The theme of my talk is to evaluate Japanese society from a gender perspective by focusing on the identity of young-middle age women in relation to the nature of policies and practices.

Since the First World Conference on Women, the Japanese government has expressed its commitment to the cause of women’s advancement and later, gender equality. Along this line, institutional mechanisms have been developed slowly but steadily. Nominal equal opportunities in various sectors, together with economic development, contributed to changes in attitudes and behaviors of women to the extent that it looks as if they have freedom to choose their ways of life. At the same time, the ‘women and men are equal but different’ ideology and the ‘breadwinner-housewife’ family system remained to be the foundation of major policies. Practices in the work place also continued to discriminate against women. Studies show that a good majority of women even with a high level of education prefer to stay housewives and be good mothers when they have husbands who are sufficient providers. Their choice reflects the reality of the system under which being a breadwinner’s dependent promises the least cost for secure living. However, one outstanding outcome of the inconsistency between the policies to promote gender-equality and the ones to maintain gender discrimination is found in the lowered fertility, which is now a critical issue.

As Professor in the Department of Sociology at Sophia University in Tokyo, Meguro Yoriko’s research focuses on social change and family change, gender roles, and gender and development. She is a member of various academic societies including the Japan Sociological Society. She has served on a number of National Councils and Research Committees of the Japanese Government. In addition, she has served as Alternate Representative of the Japanese Government to the 49th and 50th General Assemblies of the United Nations and as the Japanese Representative to the UN Commission of the Status of Women (since 1996).