An analysis of trends in female labor force participation in Japan.

H. Shimada, Y. Higuchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reviews statistical data on Japan's female labor force participation and household behavior, and estimates income and wage elasticities from female labor supply equations. Labor force participation rates reveal that: 1) 1/4 of working women work part time, 2) the unemployment rate for women has been consistently lower that for men, 3) female wage rates have improved substantially relative to male wage rates from 1960 to 1975, 4) the educational attainment of the female labor force has increased remarkably, while the proportion of female workers having only an elementary level education declined from 60% to 43%, 5) the fertility rate of Japanese women has declined greatly during the postwar period (from 133 to 71 in 3 decades), and 6) there is a mild tendency to later marriage, and an increased tendency to divorce. A review of the data on female labor supply and household behavior shows that: an analysis of aggregate data is misleading since it includes heterogeneous groups of the self employed, unpaid family workers, and paid employees, whose behaviors are quite different, and 2) historical developments do not seem to conform with the logical sequence of events anticipated by human capital theory. Absolute values of wage elasticity are consistently smaller than income elasticity, both for time series and cross sectional analyses. The relative smallness of wage elasticity to income elasticity is confirmed for the cross sectional data, and may be the consequence of labor supply decisions that are not really responsive to female wage rates. The underestimation of cross sectional analysis has been common among previous studies; analysis is unable to avoid this problem because shifts over time are indicative of structural changes in the behavior of Japanese wives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S355-374
JournalJournal of labor economics
Issue number1 Pt 2
Publication statusPublished - 1985 Jan 1


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Industrial relations
  • Economics and Econometrics

Cite this