Throughout the history of man, the human resource has been the most influential capital resource in the society. It is characterized by human labor which has been the main contributor for economic growth in the society. The society is based on the principles of division of labor that has allowed different individuals to perform different tasks that supports growth and development. This aspect has been especially critical in the business environment that heavily relies on human labor in order to ensure the production of goods and the provision of essential services.
Through human labor, businesses are able to make a profit and thus increase their revenues which in turn enhance their productivity and ensure their growth. However, human labor is very fickle and it is highly influenced by a number of factors that affects their productivity and input in the labor market. One of the major factors influencing human labor throughout human history has been discrimination and especially through gender discrimination. This essay seeks to highlight and discuss how human labor was essential in the economic development of postwar Japan. However, the main objective behind the article will focus on the role played by women and their contributions in the economic development of the nation.
One of the highlights of the human civilizations throughout the ages has been the separation of the sexes. This was the advent of the socially constructed terms gender and sexuality in the human society that further developed as tools for separating people into male and female. The development of gender progressed from the traditional stereotypical belief that people are born as either male or female. Thus the term sexuality was employed to describe the biological make-up of an individual based on their sexual organs. Traditionally, it was employed to describe the difference in the masculinity and femininity of a person. It is what pertains to being a male (man) or a female (woman). Sexuality was thus the advent of the term gender. Gender describes the natural and physical characteristics of being male or female. Gender separation is highly founded upon the principles of division of labor in the human society. It saw men and women as having different roles within the social setup and as such sought to define these roles for benefit of the society. During its development, division of labor sought to use the strengths of each gender/sex in order to complement their weaknesses. This allowed the society to increase its productivity and thus grow their economies allowing the growth of civilizations. However, as times went by, the principles that defined the division of labor were abused thereby leading to the development of a patriarchal society which was highly characterized by increased discrimination based on notions of gender differences. It was based on the increased competition between men and women as aspects like modern education and increased technical know-how allowed for gender equality especially in terms of skills and competencies. It meant that men and women had the same capabilities which made the gender roles established through the system of division of labor which separated men and women according to some preconceived notion about their abilities. These notions were further based on stereotypical views that saw men as superior to women and as such accorded more and better opportunities for men than women in the labor market. All in all, it led to the development of workplace discrimination that was based on the need to maintain the status quo where men monopolized the labour industry at the expense of women.
The traditional Japanese community was mostly patriarchal in nature and was mostly characterized by increased gender disparity. It thus meant women were discriminated against getting fewer and poor opportunities than their male counterparts. However, unlike other societies, gender disparities in the Japanese society were varied based on the period, the social environment and the political atmosphere. For instance, during the Heian period that existed during the 8th Century, women in Japan were allowed to own and inherit property under their own names. They were also allowed some form of autonomy generally permissible to men especially in the traditional patriarchal societies such as education and also to take and keep lovers. This can be highly contrasted with the Edo period that existed during the 17th Century that was highly characterized by a declining status of women in the Japanese society. An excellent example is highlighted in the writings of Kaibara Ekken especially in the book ‘Ona Daigaku.’ The author states the place of woman in the Japanese society was only to obey her husband in everything (Kaibara, 2010). Women were thus expected to be submissive and treat their men with the utmost respect. During this age their rights deteriorated to the extent that in some cases they were treated as second rate citizens and chattels to be exchanged as goods through marriages. The Japanese women were held to certain social expectations that directed their behavior so as to be in conformity with the stereotypical principles expected from traditional housewives across the globe. According to a study undertaken by Takie Sugiyama in 1985, women in Japan were expected to conform to socialized feminine behavior and patterns that included modesty, courtesy, timidnes, tidiness and compliance with the patriarchal rules that permeated the Japanese society (Lebra Sugiyama, 1985). This required women to be obedient and respectful to their husbands as well as observe values of silence in the social duties. This meant that women did not have a voice in the traditional social activities within the society.
Japan was a major player in the Second World War as part of the Axis forces. Its attack against the United States on Pearl Harbor was among the chief reasons why the U.S. entered into the war. However, the war efforts had an adverse effect on the nation as it suffered major economic consequences. The war left the nation’s economy devastated and its critical infrastructures destroyed. This is especially exemplified by the loss of life and property experienced in Japan after the United States dropped a nuclear bomb in the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. As such, the central government policy in post war Japan was mostly to rebuild both its infrastructure and economy so as to ensure that it regained pre-war economic status as well as political stability.
The economic turning point of post-World War II Japan is commonly referred to as the economic miracle. The economic miracle was as a result of a number of interventions mostly from the United States under the Marshall Plan (Nakamura, 1981, p. 56). The Marshall Plan was an European Recovery Program was an economic initiative undertaken by the United States in order to provide financial aid to nations adversely affected by the Second World War. Under the plan, the U.S. made available over $12 billion dollars to be used to help in the rebuilding process so as to ensure that the nations affected by the war were able to regain their economic status. However, the plan was also a way for the United States to help stop the spread of communism in the cold war era which developed after the 2nd World War. By helping war torn nations rebuild their economies, the U.S. aimed at creating permanent allies as well as trade partners which in turn created spheres of influence that helped halt the spread of communism. The Marshall plan was especially crucial in Japan as it allowed the U.S. to gain a foothold in the Asian peninsula which was mostly procommunist. It thus helped the U.S. to win over Japan which was a traditional rival from the gasps of the communists who had already taken China and North Korea.
The economic miracle in Japan was highly characterized by increased and improved industrialization which in turn created a huge demand for labor in the nation. Further, with the intervention of the United States the Japanese society introduced modern and improved education system. As a consequence, it led to increased access to educational facilities for the Japanese people and especially for women.
One of the major characteristics of the Marshall Plan was the increased interactions between the United States and Japan. These interactions led to evolution of the Japanese society especially when it came to the status of women. The United States is founded on principles of freedom and equality for all. This has been its global campaign as it seeks to establish the same principles across the globe. As such, it has always leveraged its financial support to enhance social change in the society. This was the same tactics employed in post-war Japan whereby the U.S. used its strong economic position to enforce social changes in Japan. One of these changes was the empowerment of women through increased educational opportunities. The evolution of modern education in Japan took two major steps. The first transformed the education system in the nation such that it allowed the improvement of the education system. The post-war education system in Japan was highly characterized by gender inclusion that allowed both male and female students an equal opportunity to access educational services from basic to tertiary levels. This meant that more women could attend schools and gain the same type of technical skills as men. Secondly, it promoted a students’ exchange between Japan and the United States. This offered Japanese students with a rare chance to gain improved technical skills in the U.S. They were then able to use this skills and competencies to help develop the economy of the nation. Further, they were able to bring back these skills and information back into Japan and consequently share it with the local population. Together the two factors were instrumental in the growth of the post-war Japan economy. Improved education allowed the population to not only develop skills and competencies, but also to develop creative ideas that enabled the nation’s workforce to become innovative. Innovation on the other hand ensured that the nation gained a competitive advantage in the global market to such an extent that it was able to surpass its traditional rivals and thus become among the major economic powers in the world at the time.
On the other hand, the post-war Japanese society the nation’s human resource was seriously depleted of its major labor source. Majority of it male population had perished or had become disabled as a result of their participation in the Second World War. As such, the main source of labor force in the nation could only be supplied by the female population. Further, in order to achieve its overall economic goals the nation had to ensure that the younger population had the capacity to undertake all the necessary activities essential for raising the economic standards of the nation. Therefore, gender disparity no longer formed the basis of the post war Japanese society especially when it came to the economic activities of the nation.
Therefore, the Japanese society in the post Second World War II highly emphasized on gender equality as a tactic to improve the labor situation in the nation. By empowering and allowing women to participate in the economic activities of the nation, Japan was able to bridge the increased labor demand caused by the loss of lives in the Second World War. The inclusion of women in the Japanese labor market helped the government increase and improves its overall capabilities. This allowed the Japanese government to improve its economic status and thereby grow its economy. Women provided an extra labor force that ensured the nation’s productivity improved through the years. The increased inclusion of women into the workplace led to a social revolution in Japan that saw women transcend from being house wives and they became increasingly involved in the ever-growing industrial environment. Further, it transformed the Japanese society from a largely rural community and turned it into an urban community as more and more people moved from the traditional rural areas into the modern industrial urban centers.
In conclusion, the role of women in the economic upturn of the Japanese economy in the post World War II era cannot disputed. In the first instance, their inclusion in the economic activities helped alleviate the increased demand for labor that was created by increased industrialization and the loss of human life (men) during the Second War. On the other hand, the increased diversity in the workplace supported by the inclusion of women improved productivity of the Japanese nation. Women brought in another element into the workplace that helped increase the nation’s efficiency which in turn transformed the nation into one of the most developed nations in the post war era. The inclusion of women in the Japanese labor force was multidimensional and involved the improvement of the educational sector. As a consequence it helped improve the technical skills and abilities of the nation that helped the society transcend from a traditional system into a modern community.
Ekken Kaibara (2010). Onna Daigaku. A treasure box of Women’s Learning. Gardener’s Books. ISBN 0955979676
Takie Sugiyama Lebra (1985). Japanese Women: Constraint and Fulfillment (Pbk. Ed.). Honolulu, Hi: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0824810252
Nakamura, Takafusa (1981). Rapid Growth. The Postwar Japanese Economy: Its Development and Structure (book). Trans. Jacqueline Kaniski. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press. Pg.56