chapter  13
13 Pages


WithAkira Wakisaka, Haesun Bae

Much of the research published in English on Japan and the newly industrialised countries (NICs) of the Pacific Rim has tried to explain the success of these economies relative to those in North America and Europe. This research has, however, tended to focus on the attractive conditions offered to ‘core’ nenko employees but to neglect atypical workers and the role of women in these employment systems (however, see Lam 1992; Honda 1993). The aim of this chapter is to focus on this neglected area by comparing the conditions of parttime workers in Japan and South Korea. The rationale for this comparison is the expectation that there will be several similarities in the way women are integrated into paid employment in two societies; although Japan is currently a wealthier society than South Korea, they share not only an ‘Asian culture’ but also the experience of rapid industrialisation. However, a closer look at the way women are involved in paid employment reveals striking differences between the two societies in this respect. Although the levels of female labour force participation are fairly similar, at 50 per cent in Japan and 47 per cent in South Korea, part-time rates are very different: 31 per cent of women work part-time in Japan compared to only 8 per cent in South Korea in 1993. These differences raise the question of why the part-time rate is higher in Japan than in South Korea. The aim of this chapter is to explore these differences by looking at the characteristics of the demand for and supply and regulation of part-time employment in each society.