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Towards Gender Equity in Japanese and Nordic Labour Markets: A Tale of Two Paths
Helinš Melkas and Richard Anker, July 2003

The gestation period for this paper has been a long one. However, its relevance to continuing debates on gender inequities is considerable. The fact is that occupational segregation is among the worst and most intractable forms of gender inequalities, and is one aspect of the Scandinavian countries' relatively good performance in terms of gender that is still poor. Nevertheless, the Nordic countries do have a record that makes comparison with Japan intriguing. To what extent has Japan's progress lagged? Are the differences narrowing or growing? Are the policies that have produced progress in the Nordic countries replicable in a very different society such as Japan?

Gender inequalities are an important part of patterns of economic insecurity in all societies. In practice, some forms of inequality exist in all areas of work-related insecurity. The Programme takes it as axiomatic that governments cannot justifiably claim to have acceptable social and economic security if women face systematic discrimination and disadvantage. This is why in our work on a national Decent Work Index gender inequality variables are given a prominent place.

This paper presents a careful analysis of institutional differences that help to explain gender-based occupational segregation, and in doing so gives some tentative answers to the sort of questions posed above. It also provides a rich array of statistical information that students of gender relations should find extremely valuable.
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Updated by LD. Approved by GS. Last update: 5 August 2003.