Japanese Journal of Human Geography
Online ISSN : 1883-4086
Print ISSN : 0018-7216
ISSN-L : 0018-7216
Changes in Labor Force Supply and the Gender Division of Labor
A Report from the Textile Industry
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1994 Volume 46 Issue 6 Pages 559-580


An elucidation of the labor market's structure has been one issue under debate in textile industry studies in economic geography in Japan. Many reports explain socio-economic attributes including sex, age and pay from detailed investigation, and define the labor force in the labor market. It goes without saying that the textile industry is typically labor-oriented, in that it employs a younger female labor force which is placed at the bottom of the pay scale. And textile studies have pointed out the structure of the labor market, paying attention to this younger female labor force, however, but have not yet examined the discussion that labor quality, which is related to gender difference, is an important factor that places female labor force in such a position within the labor market. Moreover, there is a growing need for consideration of labor quality in the context of a new production system, that is ‘flexible production’, therefore it is thought that in the complicated and multiplied labor structure today, an examination from the standpoint of gender is important.
This article attempts to examine the male and female labor force in the textile industry placed in the labor market, focusing on their labor quality. Currently, technological innovation and restructuring are also under way in the textile industry in Japan. There have, however, been few detailed reports of the topic of gender difference in the labor market, that is to say, about how these factors affect the supply structure of male and female workers in the labor market and the gender division of labor. The subject hitherto has received but scant attention even in foreign countries irrespective of differences in industrial sector. Worthy of note in our country is that since the 1980's, sociologists and economists have been engaged in exploring macro aspects such as nationwide trends of division of labor by sex. Nonetheless, they have neither dealt with the spatial dimensions of the trends nor have they made an exhaustive study of a particular industry or region. Thus it cannot be denied that their studies are far from satisfactory especially at meso or micro levels. Needless to say, these problems must be solved through geographical investigations.
Keeping in mind the status quo of research, the second section of this paper examines spatial dimensions of gender difference in the local labor market of each manufacturing sector in Aichi Prefecture, which shows one of the highest rates of manufacturing workers in Japan. A difference of dependence on female labor force between manufacturing sectors, and the changing of dependence on their labor force from the transition period (1970) to recent years (1985) were clear. The following shows that concretely. A higher female employment rate (60∼68%) in the textile sector in both 1970 and 1985 suggests that this sector depends on female labor forces. However, contrasting to this sector, steel, general machinery and transportation machinery have a lower female employment rate (10∼30%). This suggests the existence of a sector-specific gender division of labor. Moreover, a remarkable reduction of the female employment rate in the textile sectors observed in two regions, both the western part of Owari and the southwestern part of Mikawa. The former region, which is a traditional textile district and has a high rate of industrial added-value, is selected as the study area here.
The third section is devoted to exploring a changing source of labor force supply in this region. Examination is made for two separate periods: from the special procurement boom of the Korean War (1950∼53) to the first oil crisis in 1973, young female workers (especially new school leavers) were dominant, while, after the crisis, middle-aged and old workers have played a major role.

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