The Role of Family in Japan

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After the end of the Cold War, Japan had suffered a relatively long period of recession since its economic bubble burst. It desperately needed an economic revival. In order to do so, it needed to concentrate on the operations of the political and economic structure of its society and the ways the Japanese individuals interacted within that structure. This structure is one that the people have created themselves to be the accepted norm, meaning the accepted way that people should act and how things should be in Japan. Many conformed and contributed to this way of life and others rebelled against this structure. The key role that helped facilitate this type of social structure is the family, by its function of mediating between the society and individuals. The family, whether it is a “nuclear” family or an extended family made up of different types of members, was a very important unit in society that played the essential role of fulfilling the emotional and physical needs of the individuals which was crucial for social and economic development. The family acts as a catalyst that affected various aspects of the model societal structure and by doing so, the structure continues to revolve around the role and ideology of the family. Some aspects of the social structure it strongly influenced and continues to influence are the employment system, education, technology, and even protests against the very structure. The individual roles of the family members played an important factor in the employment system. Japanese families had an underlying gender ideology. Therefore, it was no surprise that the society developed into a patriarchal system with men as heads of the households who would most likely provide the financial support for the family and with women in charge of taking care of the children and the home. In Japan’s social structure, people believed that women should just concentrate on doing household work and leave working outside the house to men. In the article “A Postwar History of Women Workers,” author Kumazawa Makoto states that “Japanese common sense renders the idea of women working outside the household as of secondary importance (162).” Due to this prejudice, women who have decided to go against the norm and get a job outside the household have not been granted equality with men in the employment system. While men were able to possess jobs that used their brains or special skills, women were restricted to simple tasks since they continued to be idealized by the “good wife, wise mother” doctrine practiced widely in the Japanese community. Even the Labor Standards Law’s first priority was to create measures that maintained the health of women workers so they could remain dutiful wives and mothers while working. The law provided women the right to a six weeks’ leave before and after childbirth, the right to request leave to take care of a child, the right to paid leave during menstruation, a cap on overtime work, and prohibition of wage differentials based on sex. These were all measures to protect the women so they could serve their country by bearing more children. In the article “The Grass Seeds and Women’s Roles,” author Sasaki-Uemura states that “women’s patriotic duty was cast in terms of bearing children (116).” Although the new constitution of 1947 established the principle of “the basic equality of the sexes” and granted women political and civil rights such as the rights to vote and hold office, equal rights to education, and equality of husband and wife in a democratic family system, it remained a practice to continue employing submissive women in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs that only required manual dexterity with low wages. In the prewar period, female workers were largely employed in the textile industry. In the first postwar decade, most females were still working in low-waged factories even after the revision of the constitution. However, some female workers landed jobs in banks....
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