Volume 36 - Article 13 | Pages 391–426  

Another work-family interface: Work characteristics and family intentions in Japan

By Wei-hsin Yu, Janet Chen-Lan Kuo


Background: Previous research highlights the importance of job and workplace characteristics in the work‒family interface. Nevertheless, we know little about how the specific context of work is related to singles’ marriage and parenthood intentions.

Objective: In this study we examine the links between work conditions and family intentions using a representative sample of never-married, childless adults in Japan, a country that is well known for rapid declines in marriage and fertility rates.

Results: We find that, surprisingly, work characteristics conducive to less work‒family conflict are rarely associated with stronger desires to marry and have children. For never-married men in Japan, the job qualities most relevant to family intentions are those that imply a bright economic future. Job conditions with the potential for work‒family conflict can be positively related to the desire to marry and have children if they also indicate promising career prospects. Conversely, workplace sociability is highly relevant to women’s marriage and fertility intentions. Never-married women working in more collaborative and interactive environments seek potential marriage partners more actively, want to marry and become parents more, and have higher preferred numbers of children. We suggest that in more sociable workplaces, childless singles tend to be more exposed to earlier cohorts’ family experiences and beliefs and so become more interested in marriage and parenthood.

Contribution: This study demonstrates that, in Japan, the work characteristics relevant to single men’s family intentions differ from those that are relevant to the equivalent intentions of single women. In particular, the finding that women working in more sociable environments desire marriage and children more adds to the literature emphasizing the influence of social relations on family decisions in advanced economies, as well as suggesting a new channel through which social relations shape ideas and plans about marriage and parenthood.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Job characteristics, marital intentions, and partner-seeking actions: Longitudinal evidence from Japan
Volume 43 - Article 52

Comparing same- and different-sex relationship dynamics: Experiences of young adults in Taiwan
Volume 40 - Article 17

Fertility responses to individual and contextual unemployment: Differences by socioeconomic background
Volume 39 - Article 35

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