Why the Female Labor Force Participation Rate in Metropolitan Areas is Low: A reexamination of the current situation and of the issues

Author Name HASHIMOTO Yuki  (the University of Tokyo) /MIYAGAWA Shuko  (Research Assistant, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. September 2008 08-J-043
Download / Links


In this paper we demonstrate that use of latent labor in metropolitan areas is the key to achieving the government's numerical targets for the female labor force participation rate, and we make a comparative study of the effectiveness of various factors that promote employment.

First, we look at the extent of the contributions made by individual prefectures to the depth of the trough in the M-curve of the female labor force participation rate. By analyzing the extent of these contributions by using changes in cohorts in the working population, we find that 56.8% of women from their mid-twenties to mid-thirties who have withdrawn from the work force are concentrated in the six largest prefectures in terms of population.

On the other hand, the proportion of women who are not in the workforce but desire to be employed is higher in major urban areas than other regions. If that employment for unemployed women in major urban areas were to exist, the working population would be expected to increase by some 3.2 million, and the M-curve would be wiped out.

Next, we examine the reasons why employment is more difficult for women in metropolitan areas than in other regions. A time-use analysis shows that if women in major urban areas are employed as regular employees, it is necessary for them to secure longer working hours than those of women in rural areas. It is difficult to expect that support from the parental generation will have any positive impact on women's employment in the medium to long term due to the growing tendency of people from that generation not to share a household with their offspring, and the increasing burden of providing for their own health and homecare needs that they are facing as they grow older. In addition, among the biggest obstacles preventing women who want to work from doing so are the heavy burdens of domestic chores and childrearing, the lack of familial support of the kind they would receive if they did live with their parents, and the disproportionately long waiting lists facing mothers seeking to place children in daycare centers in metropolitan areas. Because of this last reason, there is an urgent need to enhance public support for improving care for very young children in order to promote employment among women in metropolitan areas.