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Japan’s New Young Women

A concurrent set of posts on the NBR Japan Forum is on the role of women in the labor force. At younger ages, the shift towards greater participation is dramatic, a 30 percentage point jump among 25-29 year olds. Participation for women age 30-34 is following in parallel, with about a 13 year lag:
LF%2013

However, this is less economically meaningful than at first glance. Women are not going to be able to save Japan from its demographic challenges. Of course it is these very same women who are not having lots of children. But more to the point, they are daughters of an already smaller cohort of women. So even a continued increase in women pursuing careers — already apparent — will only have a modest impact on the shrinking of the labor force. They are simply too few young women, and their number is falling yearly. Hence despite the rise in participation, the total number continues to decline:
LF#2013
Policy changes could smooth things, and from a microeconomic perspective (and a family perspective) could bring many benefits. But from a macroeconomic perspective it’s too late for less male-centered policies around the workplace and the home to make a difference.

[For an amusing – for men, hopefully sobering – portrayal of the challenge of a stay-at-home father albeit in a US context, see Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain. I’ve experienced short spells, as my wife worked shifts when my children were small.]

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