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Japan: Early Career Contract Work Reduce Family Formation & Fertility Rate

Study: Long-term Consequences of Early Career Disadvantages on Fertility: Evidence from Japan

  • Study Focus: Examines how early-career nonstandard employment affects men’s long-term fertility in Japan.
  • Context: Japan, characterized by a rise in nonstandard employment and a strong gender-based division of labor, faces declining fertility rates.

Why it Matters

  • Fertility Crisis Understanding: This study is crucial in understanding Japan’s persistent low fertility levels and their association with labor market conditions.
  • Policy Implications: The findings can inform strategies to tackle fertility declines, relevant both in Japan and other low-fertility countries.

Key Findings

  1. Nonstandard Employment’s Negative Impact: Men whose first job was nonstandard are less likely to marry and have children by age 45 compared to those in standard employment.
  2. Cohort Differences: The scarring effect of nonstandard employment is more significant for those entering the labor market post-1990, post-economic downturn.
  3. Marriage Delay as a Key Factor: Delayed marriage accounts for two-thirds of the fertility decline due to nonstandard employment.

In-Depth Analysis

  • Economic Uncertainty and Fertility: Nonstandard employment, linked to economic uncertainty, influences decisions on marriage and childbearing.
  • Gender Roles in Japan: The study underlines the significant influence of men’s employment status on fertility, reflecting Japan’s gendered labor expectations.
  • Scarring Effects of Early Career Disadvantages: Early nonstandard employment exerts enduring negative effects on men’s fertility outcomes.

Contextual Understanding

  • Labor Market Structure: Japan’s labor market, with a clear divide between standard and nonstandard employment, impacts long-term life outcomes.
  • Gendered Division of Labor: In Japan, men’s role as primary breadwinners makes their employment status crucial in fertility decisions.


  • Policy Considerations: Enhancing employment stability could positively influence fertility rates.
  • Global Relevance: The insights apply to other countries with similar labor and fertility dynamics.

Limitations and Future Research

  • Heterogeneity in Nonstandard Employment: Future research should consider the varied nature of nonstandard jobs.
  • Individual-Level Mechanisms: The study did not directly explore the individual-level reasons behind the trends.
  • Retrospective Data Challenges: Accurately capturing complex employment histories, particularly in nonstandard jobs, is challenging and crucial for future research.


The study highlights the critical role of early-career employment types, especially in a gendered and segmented labor market like Japan’s, in shaping long-term fertility trends. It emphasizes the need to consider labor market structures and gender norms in understanding and addressing fertility issues.