Modern Asian women: submissive or independent

In the traditional view of Europeans, Asian women are attentive, obedient wives and caring mothers, quiet, submissive, deprived of a voice in society and many rights…

In the traditional view of Europeans, Asian women are attentive, obedient wives and caring mothers, quiet, submissive, deprived of a voice in society and many rights. However, such a simplified interpretation of the image of the Asian does not correspond to the real situation.

Wife in Asian society has always had a very high status. For example, in contrast to Greek, in Asian mythology the Sun goddess, ruled the eight million deities – Amaterasu, a woman. And since ancient times in Asian woman believed that women are endowed with a special, supernatural power that allows them to communicate with the gods. Again, it should not be forgotten that until the first half of the 14th century, Asian woman had a matriarchy and, among the farmers, fishermen and merchants who made up the vast majority of the population, women, working on an equal footing with men, were equal members of society and enjoyed the same degree of freedom (including issues of love and marriage). At the same time, the way of life of women belonging to the elite class, for many centuries, was determined by Confucian ethics, which prescribed a woman “three obedience”: in his youth – the father, after marriage – husband, in old age – children, as well as other restrictions.

It is interesting to note that many researchers, including Asian, believe that “miai” – collusion wedding – the traditional Asian way and that only after the second world war, younger generations of Asian gradually adopted the Western style – marriage for love. However, in the Edo period (1601 – 1867), the marriage arrangement was a custom of the samurai class, which constituted less than 10 percent of the total population. The wedding customs of farmers, who accounted for more than 80 per cent of the Asian population, were quite different. In the villages there was an unwritten rule: everyone had to marry for love.

Thought about kids

Since the decline in the birth rate means that a number of other problems (and especially the shortage of labour) are worsening, a new policy is being developed and implemented in the country to encourage an increase in the number of children in the family. Thus, since 1991, the Law on leave to care for a child under the age of one year, which can be obtained by any of the parents, has been introduced. Women enjoy 42 days of prenatal and 56 days of post-Natal leave, which is paid at the rate of 60 per cent (or 40 per cent in the absence of dependants) of daily earnings either by the employer or from health insurance. Entrepreneurs who already have a policy of paid maternity leave, in addition to the funds of subsidies for the upbringing of children, the state pays $ 50 per month for each leave granted. However, the number of such entrepreneurs is still small – 15 per cent in 1992. In the framework of the social insurance system (according to the Ministry of labor) during child birth lump sum benefit equal to 50% of the monthly wage, with a guaranteed minimum of 240 thousand yen (about 2,5 thousand dollars). For each of the children, 2,000 yen (approximately $ 20) is paid out of the insurance every month until they receive a secondary education diploma. The same benefits are granted to the non-working spouse of the insured.

It is important to emphasize that in the Asian family, the mother plays a key role not only in the upbringing, education and preparation of children for life, but also in the vast majority of cases is a family Manager – 80 percent of women “hold” a purse in their hands. It is interesting in this regard to note that if earlier husbands passed to wives envelopes with a salary, with development of the sphere of banking services, distribution of plastic cards for withdrawal of money from the account in numerous specially equipped places (and not only in banks) earnings of the husband are now often transferred directly to the account of the wife,  Such a distribution of roles (the husband earns, and the wife manages the money), of course, gives the woman more power. At the same time, the man is effectively relieved of financial responsibility for the family, since the task of making ends meet falls on the woman’s shoulders.


Not so long ago, only men in Asian woman had freedom and ample opportunities for life, and women were completely tied to the house. On the one hand, however, the progressive ageing of the nation – by 1997 the number of persons over 65 years of age is expected to exceed the number of children under 14 years of age, and in 2025 the proportion of the latter will be 14.5 per cent of the total population, compared to 25.8 per cent of the elderly – greatly facilitates women’s employment opportunities. (It is true that women University graduates find themselves in a difficult situation in the context of the continuing economic downturn.) On the other hand, the reduction of the time required for household management and the increase in leisure time encourage many married women to enter into work, study and participate in various voluntary social movements.

Women’s working conditions are also influenced by the characteristics of the Asian labour market. First, almost 90 per cent of companies are small and medium-sized enterprises; they employ more than 80 per cent of all working women. Secondly, labor market mobility in Asian woman is much less than, for example, in the United States. Third, promotion and related salary increases are still largely related to seniority, rather than being driven by the employee’s own efforts and achievements. The last two features make it impossible to hope that women who want or should stay at home until their children grow up will be treated equally with men in the workplace. In this regard, women are seeking a profession or qualification that would enable them to break through the constraints imposed by the market and work in accordance with their own or family interests.

Where it all started

According to the beginning of 90-ies, about 35 percent of employed women engaged in clerical work, 20 percent have dedicated themselves to the craft and worked on the production. Thus a clear trend of reducing the number of women employed in traditionally female work – typing, care of children and the sick, and the services sector (telephone operator, waitress, dressmaker), and, conversely, increased the number of women who have mastered the previously all-male occupations – law, medicine, journalism. In addition, women are becoming involved in new areas that are not yet monopolized by men, such as marketing and consulting. As the number of women working after marriage is increasing (currently 6 out of 10 working women are married), the duration of continuous work in one place has also increased. For example, for more than 10 years, 9 per cent of all working women worked in 1980 and 26 per cent in 1990. At the same time, the average age of working women increased: 36 years in 1990, which is 10 years more than in 1960.

The curve showing the dynamics of women’s employment in Asian woman clearly reflects the changes taking place in Asian society and is shaped like the letter “M” with two peaks. The first peak corresponds to the age of 20 – 24 years (before marriage and the birth of the first child) and the second, slightly smaller – 45 – 49 years. (Back in the late 70s, the employment curve had only one, the first, peak.) The most noticeable decline in employment among Asian women is observed at the age of 30 – 34 years – the time of birth and upbringing of children.

At one time, discussions in Asian woman focused on the theory that children of working mothers were more likely to be offenders than children of non-working mothers, but ultimately it was concluded that the situation could not be considered unambiguously and depended on a large number of factors, including the age of the child, the mother’s work schedule, and, finally, the child’s environment and employment.

It is important to emphasize that at present, for most Asian women, work is not a means of survival (although money is not superfluous), but, above all, a conscious choice – the opportunity to receive and enjoy a number of new, including economic, freedoms and greater independence, as well as a way to realize their opportunities. Therefore, they decide where, when and under what conditions to work.

Asian women raise their heads higher

The wind of change in Asian woman is so strong that there were phenomena previously unthinkable here. Thus, women demand respect for themselves and their interests, strive for self-expression. There is a growing number of men who are sympathetic to such aspirations and are ready to take on more and more housework. By the way, what remains the most constant in the mentality of Asian women is their desire to leave the role of “worker bees” to men and not to claim equality in this sense.

The number of love marriages is estimated to have increased from 57 per cent in the second half of the 1960s to 74 per cent in the 1980s. At the same time, miai, a consensual marriage that accounted for 20 per cent (700,000) of marriages in 1992, took a slightly different form. “Bride” to anything don’t oblige, young nobody prevents to make the choice, and love – usually not the only criterion.

The noted disunity, remoteness of spouses from each other leads to the fact that everyone, in fact, lives his own life. The result is a very noticeable spread of acquired stains in the elderly, and increasingly, the initiator is a woman. When a husband, who has become almost a stranger in the house, retires, the prospect of seeing and serving him every day, sometimes not knowing what to do with himself, becomes unbearable for a woman, because by this time she already had her own circle of friends, her own interests appeared, and for many years she used to do without the participation of her husband in any Affairs. Therefore, dividing a very considerable sum severance retirement benefits the husband, the wife often decides to break up with him.

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