RIWAC Research Institute for Women and Careers JAPAN WOMEN'S UNIVERSITY


【Report】 Research Meeting

Date :  18th December. 2017
Place  :  Japan Women’s University (Mejiro campus)    2-8-1 Mejirodai,Bunkyo-ku,Tokyo
Lecturer  :  Assistant Professor Eunmi Mun, Department of Sociology and School of Labor and Employment Relations, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Title: Unpacking the Welfare State Paradox: Corporate Responses to Parental Leave Policies in Japan

Abstract: Scholars of comparative family policy research have raised concerns about potential negative outcomes of generous family policies, an issue known as the “welfare state paradox.” They suspect that such policies will make employers reluctant to hire or promote women into high-authority jobs because women are more likely to use those policies and take time off than men. Few studies, however, have directly tested this employer-side mechanism. Hence, it remains to be shown whether and how generous family policies affect employer behavior toward the female workforce. In this paper, we elaborate employer response to family policies and test policy effect on women’s employment opportunities. We argue that due to heterogeneity in employer responses to policy intervention as well as different modes of intervention such as mandate-based and incentive-based approaches, generous family policies may not always lead to employer discrimination. Adopting an innovative analytical strategy inspired by a difference-in-differences approach, we compare hiring and promotional opportunities for women before and after two major family policy reforms in Japan, one in 1992 and another in 2005. Our analysis using panel data of large Japanese firms finds little evidence of policy-induced discrimination against women. We discuss the contribution of our findings to the literatures of comparative gender inequality, family policies, and the impact of public policy.