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Japan's female labor force set to toss out M-curve

30- and 40-somethings are back at work in historic structural change

Female workers at a home for the elderly in Tokyo's Suginami Ward interact with their children at an onsite day care center during a break on Sept. 8.

TOKYO -- Graphics showing Japan's female labor force participation rate by age group have always looked like an M as women in their 30s and 40s leave the labor force then re-enter it. But the once-sharp M shape has softened into gentle curves in recent years.

In the U.S. and Europe, charts that show female labor force participation rates look like trapezoids or mountains as high percentages of women work through their 30s.

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