electronic journal of contemporary japanese studies

Article 8 in 2005
First published in ejcjs on 31 October 2005

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Women Only Unions in Japan


Kaye Broadbent

Senior Lecturer and ARC Research Fellow
Griffith Asia Institute
Griffith University

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Women-only unions in Japan organise women workers in a variety of ways, including across enterprises and employment status boundaries. As their appearance is recent an analysis of their development is also a new area of research. The formation of autonomous women-only unions in Japan continues a tradition of women's activism which has challenged both management and the male domination of the union movement. This article argues that the formation of women-only unions is a positive development for women workers and the broader workers' movement.


In Osaka in 1990, a group of women workers formed Japan's first broad-based women-only union[1] Onna Rōdō Kumiai Kansai (henceforth Onna Kumiai). By 2003 twelve women-only unions had formed throughout Japan with the largest, Josei Union Tokyo (henceforth Josei Union) with 250 members, forming in 1995 (Josei Union Tokyo 2003). Unions in a range of countries represent the means for workers to overcome the imbalance of power industrially and politically and in Japan, interspersed with their successes, research indicates that unions have often overlooked, or have been unable to address issues of importance to, women workers, workers in non-full-time work, and workers in small businesses (see Kawanishi 1992; Price 1997). This paper explores autonomous women-only unions in Japan and examines the impact they have had on women workers and the broader union movement[2].

The recent development of broad-based women-only unions in Japan, and the small size of their membership, explains to some extent why little research is available and why they have gained little attention in English. This paper draws on interviews held in 2003 and 2004 with officials and members of two unions: Onna Kumiai and Josei Union, and my observations at bargaining sessions and union meetings with Josei Union. I also translated Japanese language materials, including union documents. By exploring women-only unions in this paper, my focus is on women workers and women-only unions not as 'passive recipients of unionizing strategies [but as] women creating unionization' (Murray 2000: 13) and in doing so contributes to dispelling the notion in the literature on women and unions (Miller and Amano 1995) and in the minds of some male unionists (Shibata in Funabashi et. al. 1982) that women workers are passive, docile and uninterested in industrial issues and union activity.

In the globalised capitalist economy, as union membership is in decline, union renewal and revitalisation has emerged as an area of academic interest (IIRA 2000). Studies focus on evaluating the impact of the growth in the number of professional union officials on union democracy (Bramble 1995), and analysis of unions which have adopted an organising model (Peetz, Webb & Jones 2002). Studies of the emergence of 'new-type' unions (Kawanishi 1992), including those aligned with social movement unions (Lambert 1990), or studies on the role of non-government organisations (NGOs) focusing on workers (Ford 2003), contribute to a developing literature examining the organisation of workers across workplace boundaries whose concerns also extend beyond the workplace (see Hutchison and Brown 2001). An analysis of women-only unions contributes to this literature as women-only unions in numerous countries, including Japan, Korea, India and the US, are focusing on organising previously non-unionised workers including those in non-full-time work or employed in the service sector and the informal economy.

Women and union organising

Women-only unions exist in the United States and India, and historically have existed in a range of countries including Denmark[3], Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Korea, Canada and Ireland with the earliest women-only unions forming in England and some US states as early as the 1800s[4] (Lewenhak 1977; Foner 1979). At the height of pre-war union organising in Japan, women union activists in the 1920s and 1930s adopted a different strategy to that of their Anglo-Scandanavian sisters. In pre-1945 Japan, women organised and were active within mixed unions, a strategy known as separate organising. Although unions were not legally recognised, unions belonging to the business and government-friendly Yūaikai were tolerated, while those affiliated with the Japan Communist Party and Japan Socialist Party, like their party comrades, were not. In the post-1945 period, and following the legalisation of unions, women workers continued to organise in mixed unions. However, even a cursory examination of the experiences of women union activists in mixed unions reveals relationships fraught with tension. In an attempt to overcome the tension women workers adopted a range of strategies. Despite opposition from management and management-friendly male union officials and unionists, women activists in pre-war Japan successfully lobbied to create women's committees within mixed unions and the union federations. In the post-war period women workers also created 'breakaway' unions (Kawanishi 1992; Kumazawa 1996; Price 1997) to overcome patriarchal or paternalistic management and dislodge union leaderships which had developed too close a relationship with management. In general these unions were short-lived.

The experience of women workers in Japan mirrors to some extent the experiences of women workers in a range of other countries. As discussed, separate organising (Briskin 1993; 1999) is conceptualised as the creation of separate women-only structures such as women's committees within mixed unions. A considerable body of literature analyses the important issue of women's separate organising (see Cook, Lorwin and Daniels 1984; Milkman 1985; Soldon 1985; Briskin and McDermott 1993; Hensman 1996; Elton 1997; Pocock 1997; Mann, Ledwith and Colgan 1997; Tshoaedi 2002), which I will not discuss in this paper, but findings from a number of studies suggest separate organising has had a mixed impact. Briskin argues separate organising 'has challenged not only male domination of unions' but a range of practices which exclude women (1999: 546), a view echoed in Tshoaedi's research in South Africa (2002) where an informant argued 'without these structures [women's departments] women's issues were already marginalized to the extent that they [women's issues] were not put on any union agenda' (2002: 224). Gandhi (1996), Hensman (1996), Elton (1997) and Pocock (1997) however, acknowledge that there are limitations for women working only within union structures because of the reluctance of male-dominated unions to address issues beyond the workplace such as the sexual division of labour (Hensman 1996: 201).

Autonomous organising

Briskin differentiates autonomous organising or separatism from separate organising, identifying separatism 'as a goal – an end in itself, . . . [which] often identifies building alternative communities as a solution.' (Briskin 1999: 545) but in my research I use the term autonomous organising to refer specifically to the creation of women-only unions. As early as the 1800s women workers organised autonomous women-only unions in Australia, the UK, the US, Ireland and Denmark essentially to counteract and overcome the separatism practised by the largely male-dominated craft-based unions which excluded women, migrant and other unskilled workers. Few of the early women-only unions survived, as they either dissolved or were absorbed into existing male unions (Ryan 1984: 37; WTULC Collection [no date]; WTUL [no date]). In the 1970s a second wave of women-only unions formed in Canada[5], the US and Ahmedabad in India, which continue to develop, and have been joined by a third wave of women-only unions in Japan, Korea and in Chennai in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu[6] (Mody 2005: 13).

In assessing the early women-only unions in Europe and the US, writers such as Clara Zetkin, Eleanor Marx and Alexandra Kollontai criticised them for their negative effect on the nascent socialist movement. Clara Zetkin, leader of the German socialist women workers' movement in 1895 observed that the early women-only unions in Germany were 'bourgeois feminist' (cited in Cliff 1984: 74) and refused to co-operate with them despite at times the similarity of their goals. She argued that joint action with the women-only unions 'could not lead to real action, but would lead to a blunting of the sharp edge of socialist policy' (cited in Cliff 1984: 74). Eleanor Marx, when speaking of the poor conditions of American women workers, observed that there was a need for a women's organisation[7], but 'not as a separate body but as part of the greater social movement' (Kapp 1976: 166). For Alexandra Kollontai, 'any separation on the basis of sex is artificial; it runs absolutely counter to the interests of the worker and can only damage the immediate aims of the trade union struggle' (1918: 27). Yamakawa Kikue, one of Japan's leading socialist feminists active from the 1920s and, like Marx, recognised the need for women workers to organise but her analysis differed. She successfully argued for the establishment of women's committees within the union movement. In the face of strong opposition from male unionists, Yamakawa argued that because Japanese society of the 1920s was organised on the basis of 'bourgeois principles' it was necessary for the workers movements to support 'women's special demands' in order for women to overcome discrimination (Mackie 1997: 106-107).

In analysing the creation of the women-only union 9 to 5, in the US, Milkman argues women-only unions provide a link between feminism and unionism, introducing women to the operation and functioning of unions, as well as organising women excluded from existing mixed unions. Milkman concludes that in the US the creation of a women-only union saw the development of an organisational form 'which implicitly challenge[d] the established traditions of the labor movement while also working to expand the space of women within it' (1985: 310). The focus of Milkman's research, 9 to 5, forged close links with the mainstream mixed union movement becoming the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 925 where it became the vehicle for 'unionizing unorganized women clerical workers all over the US' (Milkman 1985: 315). Milkman concluded that the challenge for this women-only union in having links with the mainstream union movement is 'to preserve its distinctive vision and approach to organizing' (1985: 317). As an organiser with the Construction Workers Union in Chennai, and now assisting in the organisation of a women-only union in this industry, Mody sees women-only unions as fulfilling an important role for women workers because ' . . . trade unions see her [women workers] need to fight for her economic betterment, [but] they usually ignore her social responsibilities . . .' (2005: 13). She argues that working class men see women and women's empowerment, especially women in low paid and 'unorganised' sectors of employment, in the same way as the legal system, the media and other structures which control women's lives (Mody 2005: 13). Briskin acknowledges 'In the union context . . .[separate organising] has helped to improve women's self-esteem and confidence, develop their assertiveness, and train them in union procedures', but adds that autonomous organising 'faces a different set of constraints, including the fact that it is not institutionally located and may have very limited access to resources.' (1999: 544). Briskin (1999) suggests this dilemma could be overcome by creating women's committees which maintain a balance between integrating with the mixed union movement and complete autonomy of purpose. While acknowledging financial insecurity is an issue for women-only unions in Japan, I argue Briskin's solution of integration with autonomy is not an appropriate solution for women workers in contemporary Japan. The exclusive nature of the majority of enterprise-based unions and their inability/unwillingness hitherto to address issues of concern for women workers requires women workers to look at adopting alternative strategies.

Women's work in the Japanese labour market

Ōsawa defines Japan as a 'corporate-centred society' organised and structured around large private companies and the role of women is to maintain the family: 'while men work heart and soul for the company, women must do the same at home to ensure men can continue to do so' (Ōsawa 1995: 249). Although from 1963 to 1986 social welfare policies encouraged women to enter the paid workforce, there was no corresponding increase in the provision of facilities or services, such as childcare. Legislation such as the Working Women's Welfare Law emphasised the need to help women 'harmonise' domestic and paid work responsibilities, while assuming that men did not have this same need (Uno 1993: 305). Japan's contemporary gender contract expresses the sex-based division of labour as 'otoko wa shigoto, onna wa katei'[8] ('men have jobs, women have the household'). Reflecting more recent changes in the roles of women, the expression has been amended to '. . . onna wa katei to shigoto' (' . . . women have the household and a job') in recognition of the growing number of women working part-time and their indispensability as a flexible complement to the male full-time workforce.

Japan's labour market however, remains highly gender segmented. The proportion of women in management has increased only slightly since 1992, but overall women are still concentrated in lower levels of management. In 1995 women comprised 7.3 percent (6.4 percent in 1992) of kakarichō (lower level managers), 2 percent (1992 - 2.3) of kachō (section head) and 1.5 (1992 - 1.2) percent of buchō (department head) positions (Rōdōshō 1996: 30-1). Approximately forty percent of women workers are employed in non-full-time employment with the majority of women employed in non-union service sector occupations. Of the non-full-time workforce, women are also disproportionately employed as part-time workers. In 2002 almost one-third of women part-time workers worked more than 35 hours per week (Kōsei Rōdōshō 2003a: 23), a work pattern which excludes them from coverage by the Part-time Workers Law.

Japanese women have always been employed as non-full-time workers but their representation in part-time work increased fourfold from 8.9 percent in 1960 to 32.5 percent in 1994 while the number of men employed in non-full-time work doubled to 10.5 percent during the same period. In 2002 69 percent of women workers worked less than 35 hours per week, with the majority working in the largely non-unionised service sector occupations (Kōsei Rōdōshō 2003a: 23). There has been growth in part-time and dispatch or agency work (hakken rōdō) but the accompanying legislation has contributed little to protecting workers rights. In 1993 the Part-time Workers Law was introduced but as its definition of part-time focuses on the number of hours worked per week (35), it excludes from coverage part-time workers working in excess of 35 hours per week (see Broadbent 2003).

Unions in Japan

When assessing the creation and impact of contemporary women-only unions in Japan it is important to understand the broader workers' movement. In 1997 enterprise-based unions comprised 95.6 percent of union organisations (Araki 2002: 165) and the majority are concentrated in large companies focusing on issues important to their overwhelmingly male full-time membership (Kawanishi 1992). Total union membership in Japan is in decline, and fell to 19.2 percent in 2004 (Kōsei Rōdōshō 2004) and the proportion of women unionised was 17 percent in 1997. Unionisation of non-full-time workers is rumoured to stand as low as 2.7 percent[9].

Given the low levels of union membership for women workers in Japan it is to be expected that their representation on union committees would also be low. In 2000 women represented only 6.6 percent[10] of members on the executive committee of Rengō (Japanese Trade Union Confederation), Japan's largest national peak labour organisation. Rengō has stated it is pursuing a policy of increasing the number of women on committees or within union structures (Rengō International Division 2002: 52). One impact of women worker's low levels of union membership and consequently representation on union committees is the difficulty of having issues such as the gender wage gap[11], discriminatory employment conditions and sexual harassment addressed within broader union agendas.

The rise of enterprise unionism

Prior to legal recognition unions, except for those acceptable to the government and business friendly, were subject to constant harassment by the forces of the state. After legal recognition union membership, numbers of unions and levels of industrial activity in Japan exploded, however shifts in US political priorities and the fostering of rightwing elements in the union movements quickly led to the destruction of militant worker-centred industrial unions. Enterprise unionism, a form of unionism strongest in large companies in the private sector, was encouraged (Moore 1983; Kawanishi 1992; Price 1997).

The dominance of enterprise-based unions in the private sector has been strengthened by the arbitrary adherence to aspects of the Trade Union Law. Under the Law unions are permitted to restrict their membership to full-time workers within the company (Araki 2002: 169). Given unionisation rates for part-time workers is estimated at 2.7 percent it appears the majority of management and enterprise unions have adhered to this clause. The impact of restricting union membership based on employment status combined with compulsory unionism for full-time employees of the company, has been the creation of divisions within the workplace based on employment status (Broadbent 2003). The growth in the non-full-time workforce has lead to some unions representing less than 50 percent of the company's workforce. To counter the representation gap, some unions have negotiated with management to unionise segments of the part-time workforce (Broadbent 2003)[12]. In addition the agreement with, or imposition by, management of a 'one union, one workplace' policy in some workplaces has sidelined militant unions (Kawanishi 1992; Price 1997). Japan's Trade Union Law permits multiple unions in a single company (Araki 2002: 162) but agreements which recognise 'one union, one workplace'[13] have appeared as the history of Japan's post-war union movement provides examples of what are called 'second' or 'breakaway' unions encouraged by management to crush militant unions or in particular by women to overcome patriarchal control (Kawanishi 1992; Price 1997; Kawanishi 1999). Initially 'second' unions were encouraged by management to weaken the influence of militant unions (Kawanishi 1992; Price 1997; Kawanishi 1999), resulting in the management sponsored enterprise union becoming the 'first' union, but there are examples of workers forming a 'second' independent union (Price 1997: 114, 148-149). The restriction imposed by 'one union, one workplace' combined with enterprise unions' restricting membership to full-time workers has had, and continues to have, significant implications for a range of workers. As mentioned the growing numbers of non-full-time workers such as part-time, temporary and agency workers, the majority of whom are women, are excluded from representation by the union at their workplace. A number of unions organising beyond the enterprise framework have appeared since the 1980s such as community unions and the various unions organising part-time workers, older workers (Kawanishi 1992) and women-only unions[14]. In addition, the majority of small workplaces remain non-unionised, which further emphasises the weakness of enterprise-based unions for employees even though Japan's Trade Union Law allows a union to be created with only two employees (Araki 2002: 161).

Despite the tension women workers experience in their relations with contemporary enterprise unions, their officials display less overtly paternalistic attitudes to women workers compared with pre-war attitudes when women workers were considered children or future brides rather than co-workers (Mackie 1997: 117)[15]. Attitudinal changes aside, enterprise unions in Japan have often accepted lower wages and inferior conditions for women workers in order to protect (and extract better) the wages and conditions of their core male membership. Their acceptance of practices discriminating against women including sex-based pay systems and forced retirement on marriage or childbirth, now a contravention of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEOL), acted to 'soften the impact of ability-based assessment and promotion policies upon career male employees' (Kumazawa 1996: 191). The gendered composition of the union leadership and the structure of enterprise unions have also had a significant impact on the ability of unions to address the demands of even their 'core' members (Broadbent 2003).

The dominant enterprise-based unions have co-operated in management's artificially created divisions between workers, resulting in a weakening of solidarity with workers defined by management as 'outside' the company such as part-time workers and contract workers and with workers in other companies who are seen as competitors. One consequence for the union movement of accepting or capitulating to what might be described as management's 'divide and conquer' strategy towards workers 'outside' the company, has been, with exceptions[16], the inability to unionise the growing number of non-full-time workers, the majority of whom are women[17]. The continuous decline in union membership in Japan[18] is also reflected in the small percentage of women workers who are union members. In 1997 only 17 percent of women workers were union members (Takashima 1997: 4) and the unionisation rate for non-full-time workers is estimated at only two percent[19].

Additionally, while there are and have been exceptions, the union movement has accepted, or at least not opposed, the dominant ideology that the proper role for women is as 'good wives and wise mothers' despite statistics suggesting that women have represented approximately 40 percent of the paid workforce since the early 1960s (Kōsei Rōdōshō 2003a: appendix 7). The acceptance of the 'good wife, wise mother' ideology has prevented unions from addressing for example the persistent gender pay gap where women in Japan earn 60 percent of a male wage, less if part-time workers are included (Brinton 2001: 16). In the 1950s when employers, with the support of the unions, restructured Japan's so-called lifetime employment system and created a 'gender-specific escape route' (Kumazawa 1996: 167) women workers were removed from jobs in competition with male workers and into low-status roles and insecure employment, the impact of which persists to the present[20] (see Kumazawa 1996; Price 1997; Arita 2005). In Japan women have gone outside the union movement and turned to the courts to address issues such as the gender pay gap and discriminatory promotion policies. Recent judicial decisions have had mixed outcomes as some have not accepted that the company's practices were discriminatory, further frustrating women's attempts to achieve equal wages and conditions to their male co-workers (Arita 2005).

I acknowledge the concern that the creation of autonomous women-only unions could dilute and weaken the broader workers' movement but women activists and workers in Japan created women-only unions to overcome the tensions presented by patriarchy and capitalism. The existence of women-only unions questions the hierarchical structure and validity of unions being solely controlled by men (Onna Kumiai & Josei Union interviews October 2003) and address issues arising for women workers which are either overlooked or unable to be addressed by mixed unions. To echo Milkman's observations, women-only unions are 'challeng [ing] the established traditions of the labor movement while also working to expand the space of women within it' (1985: 310) in order to fill the representation gap which has emerged for women (and ultimately all workers) who are excluded from enterprise-based unions. I would argue that for women workers in Japan it has been necessary to create autonomous women-only unions as the structure of Japan's union movement and its domination by enterprise-based unions in large companies, which practise their own form of separatism, has created a union culture which discriminates against all but full-time workers. Women-only unions have and do co-operate in lobbying and campaigning with the mixed union movement. Josei Union indicated that in the future when union movements are sensitive to the issues facing women workers and active in pursuing these issues, then women-only unions may amalgamate with mixed unions (interview 2003), following the strategy of Kvindeligt Arbejderforbund I Danmark (KAD), the Danish women-only union, which amalgamated with the Danish National General Workers Union in 2004.

Autonomous women-only unions in Japan have achieved important gains for women workers, individually and collectively, in the areas of employment conditions and wages and provide opportunities women to gain knowledge of employment rights and industrial legislation as well as important skills in resolving industrial issues. More broadly they have raised awareness about the employment conditions of women workers and non-full-time workers. The creation of women-only unions allows women to develop policies and practices which address issues women have identified as important and by operating separately from mainstream unions may have a transformative effect on the culture and operation of the broader workers movement. This is not to say their existence is without difficulties because financial precariousness is the price paid for autonomy, by Josei Union and Onna Kumiai, the issue Briskin identifies in her research of women-only unions in North America and Western Europe (1999: 544).

Women and unions – A brief herstory

Women have been blamed for not being active or interested in workplace issues because they do not show 'a strong interest in union representation' (Miller and Amano 1995: 45). By locating the problem with women, unions avoid addressing their own organisational and structural problems, with union officials using the excuse that 'part-time workers don't want to join unions' to justify their own inactivity (Shibata in Funabashi et al. 1982: 34). Compounding this problem is the lack of research conducted on women's contributions to union activism and organisation. Pocock argues women activists in Australia's union movement 'suffer from the absence of a well-established, written tradition' (1997: 3) and I would argue women activists in Japan suffer a similar fate.

The English-language literature on women and unions in Japan (and herstory) remains scattered. When unions formed in Japan in the early 20th century, they were illegal and remained so until the ratification of the Trade Union Law in 1947. Since those early days, women in Japan have made valuable contributions to Japan's history of industrial activity and been significant actors in the union movement (Sievers 1983; Suzuki 1989, 1991, 1994; Tsurumi 1991; Turner 1995; Mackie 1997; Broadbent 2003). Women textile workers organised boycotts and walkouts in an attempt to force company owners to take responsibility for improving living and working conditions with the women refusing to return to work until their demands had been met. Women in a range of industries were also actively involved in industrial struggles in the post-WWII period including the bus conductors strike and the strike at the Omi Kenshi silk mill which lasted 106 days.

Women workers in Japan conducted, or were at the forefront in organising strikes in the pre and post-war period. However, recently a number of cases highlighting discriminatory employment conditions and workplace related sexual harassment have been fought through the legal system because the unions either wouldn't or couldn't address their concerns. Although Article 14 of the post-war constitution states no-one is to be discriminated against on the basis of sex (among other criteria) and despite achieving significant gains addressing workplace discrimination, women continue to struggle against a division of labour based on sex, a gender pay gap, discriminatory employment conditions and sexual harassment. In addition, ideological splits in the union movement and constant harassment of union leaders compounded the difficulties for women attempting to establish a women workers' movement within the union movement. As part of their struggle, women workers and activists in Japan argued it was necessary to create women's committees to mobilise women workers and they were successful despite intense opposition from male unionists.

Women first had a formal role in the union movement when a women's bureau was created in 1917 within Japan's first union, the Yūaikai (Friendship Association) a government and business-friendly organisation. Women activists were restricted by male/patriarchal constraints as Fujinbu activities concentrated on publishing a newsletter and journal organising gatherings for discussion (Suzuki 1991: 44). The combined impact of conflict with the male union leadership, the defeat of the 1920 strike at the Fuji Gas Spinning Factory, and factional splits in the union in 1919 and again in 1925 and 1926, weakened Yūaikai's Fujinbu (Mackie 1997: 110). Women's committees in the unions affiliated with the newly formed Hyōgikai, (Nihon Rōdō Kumiai Hyōgikai, or Japan Labour Unions Council), which had split from Yūaikai and was affiliated with the Japan Communist Party, demanded the creation of a women's committee in 1925 to address issues including a six day working day for women, prohibition of night work and abolition of the sex-based wage gap. Opposition to the creation of a separate women's committee claimed a separate committee for women would obstruct the development of class consciousness, that women's issues were not union issues and that the union's organisational structure would become overly complex. The women's proposal was finally passed at the 1927 annual convention (Mackie 1997: 111-113). Opposition to the existence of a women's bureau and the place of 'women's issues' generally within the union movement had to be renegotiated after each split and finally led to the development of a separate women's organisation, the Fujin Dōmei (Women's League) in 1927. In 1936 Sōdōmei (Nihon Rōdō Sōdōmei – Japan General Federation of Labour) established a women's department headed by Akamatsu Tsuneko but at regional levels the executives and committees were headed by men (Suzuki 1998: 293).

Article 28 of Japan's post-war Constitution (1946) guarantees workers the right to organise, bargain and act collectively (Araki 2002: 159) and effectively granted unions legal recognition. Union formation was explosive and women's committees formed in a number of these unions. In November 1945 when the Osaka Kōtsu Rōdō Kumiai (Transport Workers Union) was established, a women's department was created simultaneously. Katsura Ayako, a union activist since her employment as a bus conductor in the 1930s, headed the department and filled the role of union organiser at a time when there were few unions with women organisers (Goka 2002: 74-5)[21]. The Zentsu Fujinbu (Postal Workers Women's Committee) formed in June 1946 and was significant in the early post-war women worker's movement. After the formation in 1950 of the public sector union dominated Sōhyō (General Council of Trade Unions of Japan), the Fujin Kyōgikai (Women's Council) formed in 1952 grouping together women's committees of the industrial federations affiliated with Sōhyō and held its first general meeting in January 1953. Its demands focused on the struggle to protect livelihoods, to create better workplaces and to maintain peace (Suzuki 1994: 79-80). Of the public sector unions, women workers employed in the Post Office and as teachers were most successful in their struggles as they demanded the revision of the discriminatory treatment between women and men specifically in terms of employment security and the protection of working conditions, especially guaranteed salary increases.

Women in the private sector also continued to demonstrate their resistance to abuses of their human rights and discriminatory working conditions. The Omi Kenshi silk mill strike in 1954 lasted 106 days. While the workplace was unionised the union had close ties to management. In May 1954 20 employees formed a new union which became the centre of the struggle. The workers created an independent union which they used to challenge the paternalism and patriarchal management style (Price 1997: 119). The strikers' demands included abolition of the enforced practice of Buddhism, abolition of compulsory dormitory residence, opposition to opening of workers' personal mail and restrictions on leaving company premises in leisure time (Suzuki 1994: 90).

A second example of women workers creating independent unions involves silk workers in 1957. The workers of Yamago initiated unionisation of the workplace but the union was dominated by men who developed close ties with management. When a group of young women planned to organise a second independent union, the company locked the women out of the dormitory and attempted to break the union. The two unions co-existed until 1960 when they amalgamated, but the 'second' union did force the company-recognised union to address some of the issues it raised (Price 1997: 148-149). In 1958 women factory workers struck for 64 days and successfully overturned the company's ruling which forced women to quit work on marriage (Goka 2002).

In 1971 women formed a breakaway union in the Nihon Shintaku Ginkō in protest over the male dominated enterprise union's agreement with management. The agreement involved introducing a system of promotion based on qualifications, which would then have an impact on wage rates, at a time when even women with considerable years of service were over-represented at lower levels. The women-only union was able to effect some changes but the company circumvented their claims by redefining the promotion criteria to include possession of managerial experience. Male workers continued to be promoted faster as women workers were denied access to the managerial positions necessary to gain experience (Kumazawa 1994: 280-81). Women are further disadvantaged by conservative legal decisions handed down recently, including the Sumitomo Denko case (2001) and the Sumitomo Chemical case (2002), which ruled that the social values of the 1960s, when the women were hired, strongly supported the sexual division of labour and so the decision did not consider/recognise the company's practice of paying women less than men as discriminatory (Tokyoto Sangyō Rōdō Kyoku 2003: 183).

In the post-war period women's participation in Japan's union hierarchy has slowly increased through their election as workplace delegates, appointment to union executives or councils and their election or appointment to full-time official positions, but representation is still low compared with the rate of union membership. In 1998 there were on average 1.6 women serving on a union executive comprised of 10 members. The highest representations of women were in the service sector unions (3.7) and financial services and insurance unions (4.1). The lowest were transport and communications (0.4) (Nihon Fujin Dantai Rengo Kai 2000: 41). As mentioned earlier, Rengō had women representing only 6.6 percent of its executive committee members in 2000 (Rengō, International Division 2002: 52), but it is presently pursuing a policy of increasing the number of women on committees or within union structures. Each of the peak labour organisations and industrial federations has a women's department but it is rare for enterprise unions in Japan to have a dedicated 'women's department'.

Overview of women-only unions

The following analysis focuses on exploring the roles of women-only unions and their impact on women workers and the broader union movement. Women-only unions in Japan resemble general unions. Women-only unions, unlike their international sisters but resembling their Korean sisters, are considered 'second' unions by employers which restricts their ability to organise a competing union and therefore conduct collective bargaining.

There are twelve women-only unions in Japan but this paper concentrates on two: the largest Josei Union and the first Onna Kumiai. Onna Kumiai and the other ten women-only unions organise between 40 and 70 members and are run by volunteers (interview August 2002; October 2003). The twelve women-only unions in Japan form a loose coalition largely because many of the members are known to each other through their unions and other venues for activism. A stated future goal of the unions is to expand their membership and create a national and ultimately international network[22] (interviews August 2002). The women-only unions are not affiliated with any peak national union organisation but have established connections and co-operate with Rengō's Gender Equality Department (Japan Trade Union Confederation) and they have also co-operated with international organisations. One example is the case involving a sexual harassment claim against Mitsubishi in the US where the union met with representatives from the National Organisation of Women during a visit to Japan (Josei Union Tokyo 1999: 25). The aims of Onna Kumiai and Josei Union include supporting and improving the working conditions of union members, aiming for the abolition of sex discrimination and gaining women's industrial rights, working to gain equal pay for work of equal value, the advancement of the social status of women and establishing networks with women's struggles internationally (Josei Union 2003).

Onna Kumiai was formed by former women workers at the Japan National Railway (JNR)[23] because they felt betrayed by their union. They started to question the hierarchical structure of unions and the validity of unions being solely controlled by men (interviews October 2002); they 'lost hope' in unions because of the in-fighting and the 'poverty of ideas and direction' of the union movement because it is male-dominated and 'organisational (bureaucratic)' (interviews November 2002; October 2003). Josei Union is Japan's largest women-only union with 250 members and employs two full-time paid organisers. Josei Union was formed in 1995, by two women formerly employed in the Women's Department of the National General Workers Union. Harassment from male union officials however, over their focus on 'women's issues', convinced them of the need to form an autonomous union in February 2002. Women active in both unions believed women needed to take charge of their own unions to provide the avenue to resolve issues such as the sexual division of labour, discriminatory employment conditions, sexual harassment and sexual violence in the workplace, issues which are generally ignored by mainstream unions because they are not considered 'union issues' or 'employment issues' but 'women's issues'.

1. Membership

Women-only unions in Japan organise predominantly on an individual basis, although Josei Union includes members who have organised workplace branches. Workers organised include those who are not traditionally the focus of the enterprise-based mixed union movements such as workers employed in non-full-time employment, in the service sector and in non-unionised small enterprises. Both Onna Kumiai and Josei Union are small and membership numbers are either stagnating or declining. Membership in more than one union is not permitted in Japan, and only one of Onna Kumiai's members is no longer affiliated with her workplace enterprise union, an action I will discuss later. Other members belong to their workplace union as well as to Onna Kumiai despite enterprise unions prohibiting dual membership. Josei Union has a larger and more diverse membership than Onna Kumiai but its membership is not increasing. Numerically the service industries (37 percent) and manufacturing (22 percent) are the highest proportion of members. Occupations include clerical (48 percent) and specialist/technical workers (22 percent) while 68 percent of members are employed full-time, 12 percent are part-time and the remainder are a mix of contract and temporary workers (Josei Union Tokyo 2002: 39). Full-time members are often employed in small companies where there is no enterprise union and so join Josei Union to gain some union coverage. Limited financial and personnel resources restrict recruitment which for both unions depends on media coverage and word of mouth. Both unions' financial resources are gained through membership dues, subscriptions from supporters, sales of literature and fundraising activities.

2. Organisation/structure

Women-only unions in Japan resemble general unions as they organise workers across workplace, employment status and occupational boundaries. Onna Kumiai and Josei Union, while differing in size, are structurally similar in that they both have a committee that oversees the running of the union as well as a number of smaller committees overseeing the publication of materials, organisation of activities, recruiting and education. Both are run by an executive committee, elected by and from the membership, and hold annual general meetings and monthly case study meetings to inform members of the progress of cases. Josei Union emphasises that the union is 'by women, for women' (2002: 2) and expresses its philosophy in the belief that 'anata no mondai wa jibun de yatte moraimasu' (Literally: resolving your issue by yourself). Depending on the issue the member is facing, this can involve dealing with the paperwork or conducting negotiations with the guidance of a union organiser.

3. Services/activities

Unlike 'traditional' notions of unions, women-only unions in Japan rarely conduct any bargaining, let alone collective bargaining. Josei Union is the only one of Japan's women-only unions to conduct collective bargaining (albeit in only a number of cases). Negotiations are conducted by the member(s) with a union organiser and sometimes with other union members present[24]. The majority of cases negotiated by Josei Union are conducted on an individual basis.

Onna Kumiai and Josei Union run telephone counselling/advisory services and deal with issues associated with non-standard employment, especially in the environment of workplace restructuring, problems of ageing workers, sexual harassment and unfair dismissal.

Women-only unions focus on education and solidarity activities for activists, members and non-members, as well as holding much needed fundraising activities. Josei Union holds workshops and seminars, and there have been opportunities for co-operation between women-only unions in Japan and Korea. In 1999 Josei Union participated in a fact-finding workshop with members from the newly formed SWTU to gain insights into the formation of a women-only union. In June 2005 Josei Union activists participated in a study tour/workshop in Korea organised by KWTU which brought together women union (and other) activists from a range of countries in the Asian region over 4 days to discuss and workshop organising strategies and build solidarity. Josei Union maintains a website and publishes Fight! a monthly newsletter to inform about current issues such as proposed legislation reforms and their implications for women and progress on current cases. Josei Union holds regular seasonal events to foster solidarity such as cherry blossom viewing, beer parties and trips to hot springs in summer.


Impact of women-only unions

In Japan the grievances faced by women workers are largely the result of restructuring and employers' desires for more flexible workforces. Women-only unions benefit women by providing a collective voice and an accessible introduction to unionism for a workforce largely excluded and overlooked. By creating autonomous women-only unions, women workers in Japan have not only created separate spaces for women separate from male workers but have also attempted to create unions distant from the bureaucratic and hierarchical practices of many mixed unions (Briskin 1999: 546). This approach differs from the service delivery model (Peetz, Webb & Jones 2002: 86-87) which many mainstream mixed unions in Japan (and elsewhere) have adopted because the organising model focuses on 'empowering workers . . . [to] enable them to find solutions to their problems. The emphasis is on developing measures that will promote activism amongst members . . .' (Peetz, Webb & Jones 2002: 87).

Josei Union and Onna Kumiai are registered unions, but only Josei Union conducts collective bargaining. Ranking the issues Josei Union dealt with in 2002 by the number of cases, unfair dismissal (88), sexual harassment (86) and bullying (86) topped the list (Josei Union Tokyo 2003a: 8), but the union notes that for 2002 there was an increase in cases regarding non-standard employment contracts (72 cases, an increase of 25 from 2001), sexual harassment (86, an increase of 20 cases) and occupational illness (52 cases, an increase of 20). The union attributes the increase to the worsening economic environment and the negative impact of restructuring on workplace relations.

1. Resolution of grievances

Josei Union has assisted in securing financial settlements for members, which is not always a satisfactory outcome given the tight job market for women, particularly older women. In one case, five years back-pay for unpaid overtime and an apology from the section chief were gained when a temporary employee was sacked because she was told the job was fixed tenure (5 years) with an upper age limit, which she exceeded, and which precluded her from being rehired in the position (Josei Union Tokyo 2003b: 11). A second involves an employee hired in 1997 as a part-time worker on a series of renewable six-month contracts. In 2001 the renewal period was reduced to three months and in August of 2001 the employee was told the contract had been terminated. After negotiation, the company agreed on a financial settlement, and the member involved found alternative employment (Josei Union Tokyo 2003c: 11).

Grievances dealt with by women-only unions are generally resolved on an individual basis, but there have been collective outcomes from individual bargaining. Josei Union negotiated for an employee over working time/paid holiday entitlements. During the negotiations other employees became aware of their entitlements and the claim was broadened, including more employees and claims for payment of overtime wages. Negotiations over employment conditions where the company had breached the Labour Standards Law resulted in the company developing more appropriate work rules (Josei Union Tokyo 2003b; interviews October 2003 & June 2004).

2. Campaigns on broader issues

Two of Onna Kumiai's members have been involved for more than ten years in court actions to address issues of unfair dismissal, non-payment of retrenchment pay and wage discrimination on the basis of gender (interview 2003). Onna Kumiai has been instrumental in supporting the on-going struggle of members formerly employed by JNR in their legal battle for recognition over unfair dismissal and non-payment of wages, as well as that of a member employed by the Kyoto Gas Company. The case of Yakabi Fumiko (Kyoto Gas) has been upheld by both the Osaka District and High Courts in the face of the employer's challenge and is awaiting the outcome of the employer's appeal to the Supreme Court (interview 2003). Both campaigns address broader issues for women workers, and positive outcomes will establish outcomes significant for women suffering experiencing similar discrimination.

Impact on the broader union movement

1. Campaigns

Women-only unions in Japan, like their sisters internationally, lobby governments and focus on issues of discriminatory pay and employment practices, equal employment conditions for non-full-time workers, social insurance for unemployed workers, maternity protection and increases to the minimum wage. Josei Union and Onna Kumiai are involved in broad campaigns supporting equal treatment for part-time workers and benefits for temporary workers such as the Kintō taigu (Equal treatment for temporary workers) action 2003 (interview October 2003). Onna Kumiai participated in an action in October 2003 to address issues of equal rights for part-time workers which involved distributing leaflets, marching, holding speak-outs and performing a play at a series of nominated venues around the march route in Osaka.

2. Co-operation with other organisations

Japan's women-only unions, while not affiliated with national union organisations, do co-operate with Rengō's Gender Equity Department. Japan's women-only unions form a loose coalition with a view to forming a national and ultimately international network (interviews August 2002). Onna Kumiai and Josei Union resemble other union organisations, especially the 'new' type unions[25], as they are involved in broader national and international campaigns including support for part-time workers and benefits for temporary workers, the community union network, Equal Conditions Action 2003 and the Committee for Asian Women (CAW) (interview October 2003). Onna Kumiai is involved in broader campaigns supporting part-time workers and benefits for temporary workers (interview October 2003). Josei Union co-operates with international organisations, an example of which is the case involving a sexual harassment claim against Mitsubishi Motors in the US (Josei Union Tokyo 1999: 25).

Problems facing women-only unions

Japan's Trade Union Law permits multiple unions in a single company (Araki 2002: 162) and although agreements which recognise 'one union, one workplace' predominate[26], the history of Japan's post-war union movement provides examples of 'second' or 'breakaway' unions encouraged by management to crush militant unions or in particular by women to overcome patriarchal control (Kawanishi 1992; Price 1997; Kawanishi 1999). The overwhelming existence of 'one workplace, one union' workplaces and the decline in workplaces with second unions does have a greater impact on Josei Union's ability to organise part-time workers who are excluded from their workplace enterprise union. Because an existing enterprise-based union precludes the formation of a 'second' union, workers excluded from the existing union are unable to be collectively organised by another union, which leaves these vulnerable workers without collective union representation.

All Japan's women-only unions are small in membership and to this end face the issue of financial insecurity and thus survival, an issue Briskin identifies constrains autonomous women-only organisations (1999: 544). Onna Kumiai is run by volunteers and its survival, while dependent on their dedication, requires fewer resources and as it was founded in a different region of Japan and is thus not competing with other women-only unions in Japan[27], will continue in some capacity for the foreseeable future. Josei Union needs resources to provide employment for staff. Because of this Japan's women-only unions may garner outside support ensuring a strong chance of survival. Unlike enterprise-based unions in Japan, for which membership is compulsory for full-time workers, Josei Union has to overcome membership losses and the subsequent decline in resources as well as finding ways of increasing membership.

Conclusion: do women-only unions in Japan have a role to play?

The significance of women-only unions in Japan lies not in the numbers of union members they organise, which is small, nor their ability to collectively bargain, which is limited. Their significance lies in the organising of non-full-time workers, unemployed workers and workers not organised by existing enterprise-based mixed unions, the majority of whom are women. The organising focus of women-only unions indicates a potentially huge membership existing mixed unions in Japan are unable or unwilling to organise.

Women-only unions have had a significant impact on the lives of their members and to some extent those of other women workers not only in addressing and resolving issues such as unfair dismissal, non-payment of wages and benefits, sexual harassment and violence, but women-only unions raise awareness of unions and the benefits of collective representation among women workers. By organising greater numbers of women workers into unions run by women and for women, by providing training and education, the impact of politicising women workers has significant implications for the form and configuration of social and welfare policies. Women-only unions, by increasing the number of unionised workers, raise awareness of the conditions experienced by women workers, amongst women and the broader workers movement and population, through forms of organising which encourage women workers to actively participate in the running of the union.

Given declining union membership in Japan, women-only unions increase the proportion of unionised workers and contribute to raising awareness of the conditions of women workers, particularly non-full-time workers. By co-operating with mixed unions on broader issues such as increasing minimum wages and improving conditions for part-time workers, women-only unions may have a transformative effect on mixed unions and challenge them to rethink their strategies and create networks and connections beneficial for the broader workers movement.

Declining union membership and strategies for union renewal are issues of debate for academics, union officials and union members world-wide (see IIRA 2000), and an examination of women-only unions in Japan contributes to this debate. Women-only unions address the needs of a growing number of non-unionised women workers, and by unionising these workers, they are extending collective representation. Their existence and successes challenge the cultures, policies and practices of male-dominated unions. The focus of women-only unions in Japan is not confined to advancing conditions for women alone. Women interviewed argued their efforts are aimed at improving conditions for a greater number of workers, female and male, demonstrated by their participation in and support of actions, for example for part-timers, agency and temporary workers as well as joint actions on a wide range of campaigns such as over benefits for temporary workers. They believe the issues of interest to women workers had been ignored/sidelined by the male-dominated union movement. A discussion of 'women organising' broadens the scope and activity of the union movement. Women-only unions in Japan also deepen our understanding of the institutions and actors in these culturally diverse industrial contexts as well as contributing to the discussion on issues surrounding gender and unionism and the relevance of unionism to a growing sector of the workforce.


1 In this research I use the term women-only unions to refer to unions which have been created by women for women members. There are other unions which have only women members but are affiliated with enterprise or industrial federations (Josei Union Tokyo survey 2003) and unions which have a largely female membership and/or union executive. This research project does not include these unions. In Japan the creation of women-only unions contravenes the Trade Union Law as it is considered discriminatory. The women-only unions refer to themselves as ‘women’s unions’ but often include at least one male who may be a worker or parliamentarian sympathetic and supportive of their cause. In response to the Trade Union Law unions have responded by including a clause in their charter which denounces discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion, sex, or status (Josei Union Tokyo Charter 2001: 1).

2 This paper forms part of a broader research project which examines women-only unions in Japan and Korea. For comparisons see ‘Sisters organising: Women-only unions in Japan and Korea’, Industrial Relations Journal forthcoming.

3 Denmark’s women-only union which formed in 1885 decided it had achieved its goals as an autonomous women-only union and amalgamated with the mixed National General Workers Union in 2004 where it will continue to work to improve workers conditions (interview Oct 2003; thanks to Erling Rasmussen for the update).

4 Kollontai notes “Trade union organisations confined to women are found in almost all countries (United States, France, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and so on) . . .” (1918: 27).

5 Women-only unions such as the Service, Office, Retail Workers Union of Canada (SORWUC) which formed in 1972 and continued until the late 1970s (Baker 1993).

6 The Penn Thozhilalargal Sangam organises 2500 women from the construction and quarrying, domestic services and garments and tailoring which are the three largest employers of women workers (Mody 2005:13). I have yet to research this union which provides scope to developing the field of research.

7 The Women’s Protective and Provident League (later the Women’s Trade Union League - WTUL) formed in England in 1874 and the Women’s Trade Union League formed in the US in 1903 while the National Federation of Women Workers (NFWW) formed in England in 1906. Both Leagues encouraged and supported the creation of women-only unions for women employed in non-union industries, and provided support for women unionised in mixed unions (Lewenhak 1977; Foner 1979). The NFWW was “rooted in the ideas and militancy of the early general labour unions. In its struggle to improve wages and conditions, it usually found that the strike was the only weapon at its disposal.” (Boston cited in German 1989: 125) The NFWW became the Women’s district of the National Union of General Workers in 1921, the same year the WTUL (UK) became part of the Trades Union Congress (German 1989: 132).

8 Attitude surveys indicate declining support for this belief - in 1965 43 percent of people agreed with the statement (28 percent replied that they neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement); in 2000 25 percent of supported this attitude (25.6 percent replied they neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement). Broken down by gender, 21.4 percent of women and 29.6 percent of men agreed with the statement. (Nihon Fujin Dantai Rengōkai 2000 (ed) Josei Hakushō 2000, Tokyo, Harupu Publishing: 49)

9 In May 2004 Jinzai Services General Union formed and organises 18,000 temporary workers (The Japan Times, August 31, 2004).

10 Recently Rengō and a number of industrial federations have renamed their women’s departments Gender Equality Departments.

11 Women in Japan earn 60.4 percent of a male wage which drops to 48 percent if part-time workers are included (Brinton 2001: 16).

12 There are very few enterprise-based unions in Japan which organise any non-full-time employees of a company which would indicate these enterprise unions have reached an agreement with management to restrict their membership to full-time workers. For discussion of an enterprise union in Japan which organises segments of the part-time workforce see Broadbent 2003.

13 2003 data suggests 10.8 percent of workplaces have multiple unions, a decline of three percent since 1999 (Kōsei Rōdōshō 2003b).

14 Women-only unions in Japan are part of a recent trend in union organising which includes community based and part-time workers unions or what Kawanishi (1992) has called ‘new type’ unions. These ‘new type’ unions are organising workers beyond the traditional industry, occupational or enterprise basis. These include unions organised in specific communities and part-time workers unions. Some organisations in the ‘new type’ union movement are considering affiliating with the national labour organisation, Rengō (interview August 2002).

15 Mackie (1997:123) argues not all male union leaders were paternalistic, citing the example of Yamane Kenjiro who in encouraging women workers to join the textile union referred to workers with the non-gender specific terms warera rōdōsha or bōshoku rōdōsha.

16 For discussion of an enterprise union in Japan organising elements of the part-time workforce see Broadbent 2003, Women’s Employment in Japan: The Experience of Part-time Workers, London: RoutledgeCurzon. This union started organising part-time workers in 1981 in response to demands by part-time workers for union representation. General unions in Japan are also eligible to organise part-time workers butt only if approached by an individual part-time worker. In Japan in 2003 63.4 percent of enterprise unions have a union shop agreement with management. Generally this means limiting union membership to full-time workers (Kōsei Rōdōshō 2003b).

17 In Japan 46 percent of women (Kōsei Rōdōshō 2003a: 18) are employed in the non-full-time workforce.

18 In 2003 total trade union membership in Japan was 19.2 percent (Kōsei Rōdōshō 2004) Accessed May 2005.

19 'Informalisation of work in the South [Hemisphere], a process that is becoming increasingly "feminised" and threatening (my emphasis) established trade unionism creating a "crisis of representation". (Lambert & Webster 2004:140). I don’t have an issue with this comment but I’m unsure if it implies women don’t and can’t understand industrial issues in which case it might also be that the organising strategies used are focused on organising male workers or that the existing mixed unions may be problematic.

20 Women have gone outside the union movement and turned to the courts to address issues such as the gender pay gap and discriminatory promotion policies. Recent judicial decisions have had mixed outcomes as some have not accepted that the company’s practices were discriminatory, thus further frustrating women’s attempts to achieve equal wages and conditions to their male co-workers (Arita 2005).

21 Women rarely became union officials even in workplaces where the workforce was predominantly female.

22 Josei Union have established connections as the Japanese unions participated in a study tour to Korea in late 1999 and Josei Union participated in a workshop organised by KWTU in 2005.

23 The JNR dispute in Japan has continued since the late 1980s when the Japanese government began privatising and dividing the public railway system with the not so hidden agenda of busting the powerful Kokurō union.

24 I participated as an observer in both collective and individual bargaining sessions and members commented on the feeling of solidarity and support gained from the participation of other union members.

25 Kawanishi (1992) uses the term ‘new’ type unions to refer to unions organised beyond the traditional industry, occupational or enterprise basis. These include unions organised in specific communities and part-time workers unions.

26 2004 data suggests 10.8 percent of workplaces have multiple unions, a decline of three percent since 1999 (Kōsei Rōdōshō 2003).

27 Unlike women-only unions in Korea which, although they co-operate over certain issues, do not co-operate broadly due largely to their differing approaches to resolving issues important to women workers.


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Tshoaedi, Malehoko. (2002) 'Women in the labour movement: Perceptions of gender democracy in South African trade unions', Fiona Colgan and Sue Ledwith (eds), Gender, Diversity and Trade Unions: International Perspectives (London, Routledge).

Tsurumi, E. Patricia. (1990) Factory Girls (Princeton, Princeton University Press).

Turner, Christena. (1995) Japanese Workers in Protest (Berkeley, University of California Press).

Uno, Kathleen. (1993) 'One day at a time: Work and domestic activities of urban lower-class women in early 20th century Japan', Janet Hunter (ed.) Japanese Women Working (London, Routledge).

WTULC Collection (no date) Women's Trade Union League of Chicago Collection, University of Illinois at Chicago, Accessed: October 2004

WTUL (no date) Women's Trade Union League, Trades Union Congress Library Collections, London Metropolitan University. Also available at Genesis, Accessed: October 2004

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About the author

Kaye Broadbent gained a PhD in Japanese studies from Griffith University, Australia where she is a senior lecturer. She is currently an Australia Research Council Research Fellow in the Griffith Asia Institute until 2006. Her research interests include the impact of gender on work and industrial relations and gender and unions in a comparative context. She has published widely in a variety of journals on these themes. Her recent publications include Women’s Employment in Japan: The Experience of Part-time Workers published in 2003 by RoutledgeCurzon.

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Copyright: Kaye Broadbent
This page was first created on 31 October 2005. It was last modified on 20 March 2006.

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