Patriarchal Origins of Japanese Marriage Tax Credit Structure and Consequences on Married Japanese Women
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Japan is currently facing a population decline and other large demographic shifts. Many Japanese people are choosing to delay marriage (or not get married at all), ultimately resulting in a lower birth rate and an aging population. Currently, Japan’s dwindling population is driving demand for more workers from less traditional backgrounds, including women. Despite the demand for women in the workforce, Japan’s tax codes have been found in previous scholarship to actively disincentivize married women from pursuing full-time careers. The Japanese government is, in effect, supporting counterproductive policies. Female workers are needed to fill vacant positions in the workforce, but are also financially disincentivized from working full-time. In this thesis, I first present how historical patriarchal values shifted into nationalistic ideals at the turn of the 20th century. I connect the national values of motherhood to the construction of Japanese tax law in the 1960s. Motherhood, as a key element of nationalism, provided a framework for Japanese politicians as they designed modern tax policies. However, as the century progressed, outside cultural influences pushed back against traditional Japanese conceptions of a woman’s place in society, resulting in fewer women choosing to have families and a lower national birth rate. The shrinking population has led to the previously mentioned increased demand to have women replace lost productivity, but the unintended effects of Japanese tax laws have made such participation difficult for married women. A report on these laws by the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research helps explain these effects and proposes changes to current policy that will adjust tax laws to meet the needs of Japanese society. Examining government data on the composition of the Japanese workforce in the context of Japan’s patriarchal culture provides striking insights connecting Japan’s patriarchal values, the construction of Japanese tax laws, and the issues that Japan faces today. While issues surrounding gender equality persist in Japan, I conclude my thesis by discussing a traditional Japanese perspective on this system and the emerging problems that the Japanese government must confront in the near future. If Japan wants to overcome the challenges of its dwindling population and other national issues, Japanese politicians have to adjust laws to meet the needs of their citizens. Ultimately, I show how the strong patriarchal forces in Japan have played a role in the workforce issues that Japan faces today and how those issues play a role in the larger conversation of equality in society.
Mendoza, Lucas James (2021). Patriarchal Origins of Japanese Marriage Tax Credit Structure and Consequences on Married Japanese Women. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from