International Women's Year will probably not be a year the women of Japan will want to remember.
International Women's Year will probably not be a year the women of Japan will want to remember. Because of the economic recession gripping the country, even women University graduates are struggling to find jobs -- and next year's prospects are equally bleak.
Worse still, unemployment is a double-edged blow to Japanese women, for the country's rigid social structure makes it difficult for a girl to meet a prospective husband outside her place of work. International Women's Year may thus see fewer marriages as well as fewer jobs for women.
Women fill 20 million of the country's 50 million jobs but when financial troubles hit a firm, they are the first to go. Japan's lifetime employment system makes it difficult to sack employees but most women are hired part-time and many are simply not replaced when they leave the company or marry.
Girls -- like those on film at Waseda University, one of Japan's most prestigious -- find they have spent four years of hard study to discover there are no vacancies for their talents.
Half of the 500,000 students graduating next March are women, but most of the favoured companies have already declared they will not be taking women next year. Possibly fifty per cent of next year's women graduates will find themselves unemployed. The prospect has already made two Kyoto University graduates commit suicide after failing to get jobs they wanted.
The job of being a Tokyo policewoman has not been particularly sought after in the past, but this year 2,100 students have sat the Metropolitan Police Department examination. There are vacancies for only eighty of the 2,100 - an average of 26 people to each job, and similar figures have been recorded throughout the country.
Kyoto College professor Yuji Kaida has been widely quoted as saying, "If you consider company work as a meal -- men employees are the main course and women the dessert. If a company has to slash food costs, the first thing to go is dessert."
Mr. Kaida's description may be apt but it is probable that Japan's women are not going to like celebrating International Women's Year by being the unwanted "dessert" of the company meal.