Report: The 2005 Japan Forum on Feminist Economy

On Sunday, April 16th, I attended the 2005 Japan Forum on Feminist Economy held at Tokyo Gakugei University.

There were two parts to the forum. The first part featured reports on various issues - for example, foreign workers in domestic and social care services, working hours for paid- and unpaid- labour, a re-examination of capitalism, and research on the idea of household budgets. The second part of the forum consisted of reports on the common topic for this year, the feminist economic analysis of the declining birth rate. This topic was selected after the release of the '2004 Social Report on the Declining Birth Rate', in which it was revealed that Japan has only until the year 2010 to recover its birth rate or birth numbers. The aim of the forum was to acquire a new perspective of the situation and to make proposals for policy implications by means of a feminist economic analysis of the causes and effects of the declining birth rate and its possible countermeasures.

Although my research is not centred on gener issues, I strongly believe that gender studies offers an invaluable perspective for every discipline. Participating in this forum has further strengthened my resolve to keep an active awareness of gender issues in my own research.

The forum also provided me with fresh insights, particularly in terms of the gap between the general public and the academic world regarding awareness of gender issues. My own situation - being a fourth year student at ICU working on my senior thesis, with peers sharing a simiar interest in gender issues and having the CGS on campus - had led me to believe that gender perspectives are widely considered in the outside world.

However, after attending the forum, I have come to wonder if this is truly the case' it seemed to me that the forum participants were not very diverse in background, being mostly members of associations or gender researchers and academics. Attending an academic function may not be a common practice for a layperson, yet I felt that this forum could, and indeed, should, have mae a greater effort to be more open to the general public.

As reported in the opening address at the forum, and I often hear myself, that it is quite widely believed that the present decline in the birth rate is caused by the declining priority of maternal roles for women following their entrance into the workforce and the spread of individualism. The participants shared a common concern in their efforts to prove this argument to be based on incorrect assumptions. This was reflected in many of the reports which offered accurate factual arguments to further understaning on the current situation. Yet, I doubt whether such information and research will be effectively and widely disseminated in society. Disseminating the results of such specialist forums to the general public may be difficult, but I think it is essential and well worth the effort, considering the increasing importance of the new perspectives which gender studies has to offer.