Slow Down or Slow Dawn? Organizational Practices, Culture, and Emerging Opportunities for Women and Minorities in a Shrinking Japan

Other Titles


Japan’s population is rapidly contracting. If current trends continue, its population will fall to just one third of its 2010 peak by as early as 2095, with even faster declines in the working age population. Scholars are unsure how population contractions in Japan and the rest of the developed world will alter or uphold existing status hierarchies. On one hand, those at the top of the economic hierarchy may strengthen their grip on a shrinking number of good jobs. Alternatively, labor shortages may create new opportunities for formerly disadvantaged people. In three papers this dissertation examines the forms and causes of economic inequality in the context of Japan’s demographic decline. It uses original data collected from 539 white collar workers at twelve large Japanese firms. The first paper on gender inequality finds little evidence that firms exclude women from good jobs. However, within jobs, firms continue to pay women less than men, even after adjustments for performance. The results indicate that labor shortages do induce firms to admit more women to good jobs, but may even increase their incentives to discriminate against them within jobs. The second paper compares economic outcomes for skilled foreign workers and their Japanese counterparts. After adjustments for acculturation and human capital quality, the data show that Western immigrants to Japan earn more even than Japanese doing similar jobs, while East Asians earn less. This pattern of stratification suggests that context of reception—particularly the attitudes of Japanese people towards members of different groups—is more influential in generating stratification within firms than the acculturation of foreign workers. The third paper tests directly whether ethnic and racial attitudes matter for inequality between Japanese and foreign workers. Using the results of a survey experiment on attitudes, I show that in firms where coworkers are more biased against non-Japanese East Asians, inequality between Japanese and other Asians is greater. Similarly, in firms where coworkers demonstrate more pro-Western bias, Western employees are at a greater wage advantage. Together, the three papers show that, in a context of demographic decline, outsiders do move into good jobs, but do not overturn existing status hierarchies.

Journal / Series

Volume & Issue



Date Issued




Organization theory; Asian studies; Sociology; Gender; Ethnicity; Inequality; Japan; Organizations; Work


Effective Date

Expiration Date




Union Local


Number of Workers

Committee Chair

Nee, Victor

Committee Co-Chair

Committee Member

Weeden, Kim
Garip, Filiz
Brinton, Mary C.

Degree Discipline


Degree Name

Ph. D., Sociology

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

Related Version

Related DOI

Related To

Related Part

Based on Related Item

Has Other Format(s)

Part of Related Item

Related To

Related Publication(s)

Link(s) to Related Publication(s)


Link(s) to Reference(s)

Previously Published As

Government Document




Other Identifiers


Rights URI


dissertation or thesis

Accessibility Feature

Accessibility Hazard

Accessibility Summary

Link(s) to Catalog Record