A Comparative Study of Gender Inequality: Occupational segregation in Japan and Korea

Author Name YOUM Yoosik (Visiting Fellow, RIETI) / YAMAGUCHI Kazuo (Visiting Fellow, RIETI)
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This Non Technical Summary does not constitute part of the above-captioned Discussion Paper but has been prepared for the purpose of providing a bold outline of the paper, based on findings from the analysis for the paper and focusing primarily on their implications for policy. For details of the analysis, read the captioned Discussion Paper. Views expressed in this Non Technical Summary are solely those of the individual author(s), and do not necessarily represent the views of the Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).

In this study, we examined gender occupational segregation in Japan and Korea. Gender occupational segregation means there is a concentration of women in low-wage occupations, which has been considered as one of the possible sources of gender inequality in the labor market. In general, the extent of the occupational segregation by gender is stronger in Japan. In table 1, the degree of occupational segregation was measured using a dissimilarity index that indicates the minimum proportion of women (or men) who must change their job such that the job distribution for women (or men) becomes equal to that for men (or women). Japan’s dissimilarity index was higher than Korea’s. For example, 12.7% of US women took type 1 professional job, which is a very well-paid professional job including medical doctors and dentists, while the value dropped to about half (6.2%) in Korea and shrank to a mere 1.8% in Japan.

When we examined wage gaps by gender and occupation, we also found another dissimilarity between Japan and Korea. Even though women in both countries faced double disadvantages, the relative magnitude of each disadvantage was different. Japanese women are significantly affected by occupational segregation, which means that women were over-represented in poorly-paid occupations while seriously under-represented in well-paid ones, a phenomenon otherwise known as the inter-occupational gender gap. Although Korean women suffer from the same inter-occupational gap, they seemed to be more affected by lower wages compared to male workers in the same occupation, a phenomenon known as the intra-occupation gender gap.

We also examined if different human capital or employment status (regular employment or not) between men and women could explain this strong occupational segregation by utilizing so-called counterfactual statistical analysis. When we equalized the job quality of women including educational attainment, age, employment duration, and employment status with that of men by applying certain statistical weight for each person in the data, gender occupational segregation increased rather than decreased. This revealed that even if women’s human capital, such as educational level, were to improve, it wouldn’t change the nature of the occupational segregation. We believe that employer customs and practices that are detrimental to women are mainly responsible for the segregation.

Thus, in order to improve gender inequality of wages in both countries, we believe that changes in policies such as enforcing governmental guidelines or regulations on firms are essential. In Korea, regulations that would reduce intra-occupation gender wage gaps in each workplace would be more effective, while inter-occupation government guidelines or laws, such as prohibiting making employment or placement decisions based on gender, would be more effective in Japan.

Table 1. Gender Segregation of Occupations: Japan, USA, and South Korea
Table 1. Gender Segregation of Occupations: Japan, USA, and South Korea
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