No chance for romance: Corporate culture, gendered work, and increased singlehood in Japan

Yoshida, Akiko GND

This paper is part of a larger study that investigates the cause of increased singlehood among women in Japan. On the basis of findings from qualitative research this paper argues that Japanese corporate practices and culture have severely limited women's opportunities for romantic encounters. In-depth, open-ended interviews were conducted in the Tokyo area with forty never-married and married women aged 25 to 46. The data were analyzed inductively. The findings reveal that long work hours for men, and in some cases for women, impeded opportunities for women to form romantic relationships in several ways: (i) men were seldom available; (ii) many married women expressed discontent with marriage due to the absence of husbands; many single women held ambivalent views toward marriage after having heard negative stories from married friends; (iii) some single women found it unappealing that corporate men could talk about nothing but work; and (iv) single women with careers regularly worked overtime and their devotion to work was regarded as “unfeminine”. Additionally, workplaces are often segregated by gender, further limiting opportunities for single women to meet potential partners. This paper sheds critical light on the culture and practices of Japanese corporations, arguing that such culture and practices create serious consequences for individuals' lives.