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Housework and the Consumption History in pre-war Japan

Listed author(s):
  • Masayuki Tanimoto

    (Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo)

This paper aims to explor e the practice of housework in modern Japan from the point of view of consumption history. Gary Becker's seminal argument provides us with the basic framework in considering the relationship between consuming "goods" and "housework" in a household, which combines time and market goods to produce more basic commodities that directly enter their utility functions. Based on this framework, this paper tries to explore how housework related to consuming activities in modern Japan, by observing the practice of housework in farming households as well as investigating the role of domestic servants in non-farming households in the inter war period. We raise two points as the concluding remarks of this paper. The first is the complementary nature of the housework to the consumption of goods in Japan's households. The positive correlation between household expens es and housework hours, explored by a quantitative analysis using the data from economic survey of farming households, suggests this, and this finding might propose the inconsistent image of housework to that of Jan de Vries, which formulated the changing pattern of consumption in Europe, as he assumes the goods-intensive nature of the consumption at the expense of housework (substitutive nature of housework to the consumption of goods) during the industrializing period in the West. This discrepancy might suggest a possible hypothesis that Japan's pattern can be formulated as labour -intensive way of growing consumption, though it requires further comparative studies on the role of housework for material lives. Secondly, we noticed the supply side of housework by measuring the contribution of family members and domestic servants. The plurality of the family members engaged in housework implies that the nature of the Japan's households is far different from that of the breadwinner hous ehold model. It also suggests the link between housework and family system, or more interestingly, the relationship between family system and consumption pattern.

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Paper provided by CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo in its series CIRJE F-Series with number CIRJE-F-779.

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Length: 30pages
Date of creation: Dec 2010
Handle: RePEc:tky:fseres:2010cf779
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