Marriage has become an important policy issue because the fertility rate in Japan has declined continuously since the late 1980s. Because the rate of out-of-wedlock births is very low and marriage and childbearing are closely related, the low rate of marriage leads directly to declining fertility. This talk addresses three topics: (1) Who gets married? (2) What is the pattern of marriage today? (3) What are the consequences of the marriage of similar socio-economic backgrounds for the gender division of labor in the household?
The main findings can be summarized as follows. Firstly, the proportion of both women and men who postpone marriage or do not marry at all is on the increase across the socio-economic spectrum of the relevant age groups. Secondly, similarities in class origin and the level of education of husband and wife remain dominant in contemporary Japan. Class origin and educational attainment continue to play a significant role in selecting marriage partners in Japan. Thirdly, the division of labor in the household among highly educated couples is more likely to be traditional than in other families because, due to long working hours, husbands cannot afford to participate in household chores and childrearing. Higher female educational attainment has not yet led to counterbalancing the gender inequality in the family and the labor market.
Dr. Sawako Shirahase is Associate Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences, University of Tsukuba. She teaches Public Policy Studies and Social Survey Methods. Her main research interests are the interaction of family, labor market and government from a sociological perspective, and the socio-demographic analysis of economic inequality in Japan. Her book, 少子高齢社会の見えない格差－ジェンダー・世代・階層のゆくえ (Unseen Gaps in an Aging Society: Locating Gender, Generation and Class in Japan), was recently published by University of Tokyo Press.