Panel Paper: “The Office Flower and Other Stories”: The Motherhood Myth and Development of Japanese Labor Laws

Thursday, November 7, 2013 : 4:00 PM
Thomas Boardroom (Westin Georgetown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Kristen Luck, Virginia Commonwealth University
While each culture has its own concept of motherhood, the Japanese “motherhood myth” played an integrative role in the development of labor laws with the onslaught of the Meiji Restoration until the most recent Equal Employment Opportunity Law of 1999.  The Meiji Restoration was a time when Japan embarked on rapid militarization and industrialization, thus fueling the flames of nationalism.  This transformative era in Japanese history also markedly changed societal roles, particularly in regards to gender, namely women.  As labor demands vacillated between maritime and peacetime, economic growth to slump, the concept of motherhood shaped and defined legislation regarding labor laws.  I will look at Japanese labor laws from 1911 to 1999 using the issue framing (Stone, 2002) and feminist textual analysis to analyze policy to determine how the “motherhood myth” shaped those laws.  Motherhood and labor policy has been examined through Kingdon’s multiple streams theory and the advocacy coalition framework (Gelb, 2008).  My analysis will trace the historical development of these laws and workplace discrimination.  In an age where Japan and many of its Western counterparts are experiencing a rising aging population, declining birth rate, and uncertain economic future, it is imperative to consider ways to understand the narratives that shape policies which either inhibit or promote workplace equity.