Gender Role Division and Parity Progression in Japan: A Period Comparison of Population-Based Longitudinal Studies

Setsuya Fukuda, National Institute of Population and Social Security Research
Tsuguhiko Kato, National Center for Child Health and Development

How gender equality and equity relate to fertility becomes a central concern for population scholars as well as policy makers in developed countries. Both the theories and empirical studies from western countries suggest that achieving higher levels of gender equality or equity within the household can lead to higher fertility in the societies where gender gaps in education and employment are small. However, previous findings on this topic are either theoretical or being based on cross-national comparisons, and their focus is largely limited to western societies. Japan is a country where the economy is highly developed, while the levels of gender equality is one of the lowest among high-income nations. The country’s population started to decline since 2011 due to the prolonged period of the lowest-low fertility. In 2012, however, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his cabinet announced that expanding opportunities for women to join Japan’s labor force, “womenomics”, is one of the key pillars in their economic revival strategy and started several policies to change Japan’s gender climate. Our study provides new evidence from Japan about how associations of gender relations with parity progression are affected in the time of changing gender norms. We use population-based panel data from the 2001 and the 2010 cohorts of “Longitudinal Survey of Newborns in the 21st Century”. Our study examines associations of couples’ participation in both market labor and domestic work with transition to the second and third births by employing event-history analysis. The associations are compared between the observation periods of 2001-2006 and 2010-2014 as the survey follows the households of newborns born in 2001 and 2010 in Japan. By taking an advantage of this unique survey design, we evaluate how the associations change between the two periods; one period with less gender equality and another with better.

Introduction

How gender equality and equity relate to fertility becomes a central concern for population scholars as well as policy makers in developed countries. Both the theories and empirical studies from western countries suggest that achieving higher levels of gender equality or equity within the household can lead to higher fertility in the societies where gender gaps in education and employment are small. However, previous findings on this topic are either theoretical or being based on cross-national comparisons, and their focus is largely limited to western societies. Japan is a country where the economy is highly developed, while the levels of gender equality is one of the lowest among high-income nations. The country’s population started to decline since 2011 due to the prolonged period of the lowest-low fertility. In 2012, however, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his cabinet announced that expanding opportunities for women to join Japan’s labor force, “womenomics”, is one of the key pillars in their economic revival strategy and started several policies to change Japan’s gender climate. Our study provides new evidence from Japan about how associations of gender relations with parity progression are affected in the time of changing gender norms.

Data and Method

We use population-based panel data from the 2001 and the 2010 cohorts of “Longitudinal Survey of Newborns in the 21st Century”. Our study examines associations of couples’ participation in both market labor and domestic work with transition to the second and third births by employing event-history analysis. In the model, the following variables are used as covariates: wife’s and husband’s employment statuses, couple’s participations in housework and childcare activities, wife’s anxiety and feelings of burden over child rearing, first child characteristics such as sex and birth month of the first child, whether the first child was born as premature baby or not and whether first birth was a consequence of premarital pregnancy or not, and other household and demographic characteristics such as wife’s education levels, coresidence with grandparents, wife’s age at first birth, region of residence and size of municipality. The associations of male and female participations in housework and childcare with parity progression are compared between the observation periods of 2001-2006 and 2010-2014 as the survey follows the households of newborns born in 2001 and 2010 in Japan. By taking an advantage of this unique survey design, we evaluate how the associations change between the two periods; one period with less gender equality and another with better.

Preliminary Results

One of the authors has already conducted preliminary analysis on the transition to the second birth based on the period of 2001-2006 (Fukuda 2017). The analysis revealed that the transition rates from first to second birth are higher in Japan among gender traditional families which are single earner households with husbands’ stable employments and wives’ great commitments to housework, than gender equal families of dual-earner households. However, husband’s greater participation in childcare can contribute to higher chance of the second birth, irrespective to the wife‘s employment status. Men’s greater concern to childrearing is positively relating to fertility outcomes in Japan. The paper also find a strong negative effect of wife’s higher commitment to housework on the second birth hazard when the wife works full-time. This could be a negative fertility response to the “second shift”. However, our analyses consistently reveal that husbands’ supports in housework do not remedy the negative consequence on fertility. Instead, our analysis suggests that a large part of the physical and psychological burdens of the full-time employed wives is, in fact, mitigated by coresident parents. The only exception for this relationship seems to be a situation where a wife is self-employed as husband’s greater participation in housework has a positive effect on the transitions to the second birth. We would like to extend our analysis to examine whether these relationships change in the period of 2010-2014 as well as the transitions to the third birth.

Reference

Fukuda, S. “Gender Role Division and Transition to the Second Birth in Japan” IPSS Working Paper Series (E), No. 28. URL: http://www.ipss.go.jp/publication/e/WP/IPSS_WPE28.pdf

Presented in Session 1166: Fertility