Balancing work and life: Whose work? Whose life? Whose balance?

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12 Citations (Scopus)


As the developed countries increasingly see women's participation in the labor force rise, a common challenge has become how people can balance work responsibilities with the rest of their lives. The crux lies in putting into place and enforcing policy frameworks that acknowledge the legitimacy of finding balance, without sacrificing gender equality. This article discusses the parameters of this problem for Japan: a low birthrate, rapidly aging society with growing numbers of women who seek to maintain careers. Through a study of the working situations of employees at one U.S. multinational corporation in Tokyo, I investigate the ways in which career women approach and negotiate work/life balance. In recent years, while government and corporate policies have changed to foster both balance and gender equality, a cultural work environment that breeds long hours for core white-collar workers, embedded gender roles, an ongoing recession, and a lack of strict enforcement mechanisms for corporate work/life balance initiatives and their legal underpinnings seriously dilute the effectiveness of policy. Balance is precarious at best, and often elusive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-211
Number of pages37
JournalAsian Perspective
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Dec 29
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging society
  • Enforcement of gender-equality policies
  • Gender equality
  • Low birthrate
  • Women in the labor force
  • Work environment for women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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