Publication Details

Rawstron, K. (2011). Evaluating women’s labour in 1990s Japan: The changing labour standards Law. New Voices, 4 57-77.


This article outlines the legislative changes regarding Japanese working women in the 1990s, specifically the changes to the Labour Standards Law. Th is Law was altered in 1997 (effective 1999) by the removal of a number of provisions known as the Women’s ‘Protection’ Provisions (josei hogo kitei). These gender-specifi c provisions restricted Japanese women from working particular jobs and hours, and limited overtime and holiday work. The role of these gender-specifi c provisions is examined through a collection of articles from four of Japan’s mainstream daily, widely-circulated newspapers: the Asahi Shinbun, the Mainichi Shinbun, the Nihon Keizai Shinbun, and the Yomiuri Shinbun. These newspapers were of the opinion that the provisions were simultaneously protective and restrictive towards women. The newspapers all supported the removal of the provisions in order to increase equality in Japan’s workforce and society. However, all presented strong concerns that Japanese society was unable to support these changes. This article situates the law reform within the wider context of 1990s Japan, by tracing the links between labour legislation and socio-cultural issues in Japan, particularly the low fertility rate. This article closes with an evaluation of changes within Japanese society and working habits since the removal of the provisions.

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New Voices