Japanese Women in the Workforce

by Olivia Katherine Parker

Due to Japan’s conservative and traditional society, most Japanese women have played the role of wife and mother instead of pursuing careers. The common ideal for young women within Japan is to marry a salary worker and to raise a family. Oftentimes, Japanese women do not plan to pursue a career because the challenge of raising children is enough for them.

Japanese women also face a large amount of pressure from society. Not only must a wife cook her husband meals and make him bento lunch boxes, but she must also care for her children, dress them, keep a tidy house, make sure the children get to school on time, make dinner, bathe the children, tuck them into bed, satisfy her husband, and then plan for the next day. The vicious yet “rewarding” cycle of motherhood doesn’t leave much room for a career let alone a part time job.

Since 1990 around 50% of all Japanese women have participated in the paid labor force, however, they leave due to factors such as marriage, child birth, or to assume the role as caretaker. Over two-thirds of Japanese women leave their jobs when they have children and don’t come back. If a woman returns to the workforce after having children, it is usually 5-10 years after the birth of her first child and instead of seeking out a career the majority of women take on part time jobs for extra income.

Japanese companies notoriously under pay their female employees. Women roughly earn 60% as much as men and very few women hold positions of authority such as manager or CEO. On top of that many female employees receive fewer benefits and smaller insurance policies within companies. This makes the allure of a career less enticing and deters many women. For most, job security is crucial and very hard to find.

Recently, Japan’s birth rate is on the decline. In theory this should not make sense. Women are staying home to fulfill the role as housewife so that should result in a higher or stabilized birth rate. Along with a declining birth rate Japan is also facing problems such as longer life expectancies and an increasing elderly population resulting in an economic recession. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to boost Japan’s economy by encouraging more women to join the workforce. However, Japan is also facing a child care crisis. Women who want to return to the workforce are faced with the difficulty of finding care for their children. Day care centers are often looked down upon by Japanese society because a child is not “receiving enough maternal care”. The Japanese perspective or normality is to see a mother with her child instead of in temporary care. So if a woman wants to come back to work after fulfilling her role in Japanese society as a mother but faces criticism and backlash by placing her child in day care (assuming she even finds a day care) it only perpetuates Japan’s contradictory views of women.

Many people believe that Japanese society and culture must change before women can be seen as equal in the work place. Societal pressure, stigmas, and sexism are so ingrained in Japanese culture that it could take decades or generations before a significant change can be seen.

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When moms migrate overseas …

Anonymous student post

As women’s rights in developed nations are slowly inching towards equality, it is practically a necessity for women to contribute to the household income in order to sustain a desirable level of living. Many women strive to pursue high paying careers, leaving them unable to tend to the task of raising their children. Thus, an increasing number of households hire women from third world countries to take care of their children. This has resulted in the Philippines becoming the world’s number one source of outsourced caretakers.

This is a great opportunity for Filipino women to financially support their family. Taking care of
someone else’s child full time requires the women to leave their countries, thus leaving a child without a parent. This has lead the government and the media to vilify these women. They claim that the absence of a parent makes these children a burden to society.

The lack of a parent in early childhood can lead to behavioral issues and have long term effects that
carry into adulthood and can affect the individuals’ self-esteem, feelings of self-worth, and ability to
express feelings; thus also affecting relationships. As a child encounters new experiences, learns, and
grows, there is no doubt that the presence of a parent and proper parenting is detrimental to the proper upbringing of a child. It increases the chances of his ability to fully integrate into society.

One has to wonder how one quantifies the appropriate amount of parenting? How does the lack of a parental figure affect the child, and is the parent actually missing from the child’s life? Does the sacrifice of not being able to touch and feel your child justify the financial gain, stabilizing the families financial situation? This varies from family to family, as it depends on the child’s perceived feeling of abandonment, which depends on the mother’s involvement in the child’s daily life even though they are separated by thousands of miles. The communication between parent and child helps strengthen the emotional bond, thus lessening the perceived loss. The quality of the relationships with the rest of the family also significantly affect the child’s ability to cope with the lack of a parent, as they could help the child understand the sacrifices that had to be made. Also, the fathers coping with the loss of a partner would affect their ability to function as a parent, leaving the child even more confused, with a lot more to process, and without the needed attention and explanations. A child could be completely unaffected if the void would be filled with the necessary support. Thus, the attitude and involvement of the family’s relatives is of great importance and greatly affect the child’s ability to cope with the family’s circumstances.

Are equality and fairness feasible? A view from Denmark

English: (Green) Denmark. (Light-green) The Eu...

English: (Green) Denmark. (Light-green) The European Union (EU). (Grey) Europe. (Light-grey) The surrounding region. See also: Category:SVG locator maps of countries of Europe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Lisbeth Lyngs

Lane Kenworthy poses the question “Is equality feasible?” in his text on income equality, and then continues to answer this himself in the first sentence: yes. A high rate of income equality is feasible, as he mentions is the case in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The Scandinavian model, where the people get many societal benefits in return for paying high taxes is, according to Kenworthy, indirectly connected to the countries’ low income inequality and “fairness” of the system. As a Dane myself I find this view interesting, and I would like to give my input on the Danish welfare model’s good and bad points and further discuss the “fairness” of this system.

Every child, regardless of where they live or what their parents’ occupation and income is, starts off on equal social ground. Free daycare institutions, public schools and education allow them equal possibility to utilize their abilities—not to worry about getting sick either, since universal health care is also free. Parents get payed child benefits from the state until the child is 18 years old, whereafter every Dane over the age of 18 is entitled to a public support for his or her further education—and should they suddenly be without work, they will receive social security benefits regardless of their position.

All this is only made possible by our taxing fee, which is one of the world’s highest. It is nearly 40% for the average wage receiver, and over 50% for the high wage receiver. In other words, the richer you are, the more you also pay in taxes.

Now, I do not think many Danes would argue that this is not “fair”—they give as much as they take from society. Still, problems arise, e.g. when immigrants gets incorporated in this system. Denmark has a lot of immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Eastern Europeans tend to cross the border to find temporary work, while the majority of people from the Middle East come to Denmark in the hopes of finding better life conditions for themselves and stay. And as with the Danes, these people are entitled to receive the social benefits too, after having either worked or lived in Denmark for a certain amount of time.

It is then, that the “fairness” of this system suddenly gets put into question because admittedly, a lot of Danes do not like immigrants “leaching” off of their money in this particular manner. The Polish worker, who has a wife and two kids back in Poland, comes to Denmark to work and thus entitles himself to receive child benefits—which he sends straight home to his family, meaning his Danish colleagues are suddenly paying for people outside their country and society. Meanwhile the Middle Eastern families may experience tough times without work, receive money from the state, and thus further revoke the Danes’ question as to what is a fair handling of their money.

This has been an issue in Danish politics for as long as I can remember. More so since the economic crisis broke out, and Denmark’s economy dropped low and the unemployment rate went up, putting even more pressure on the welfare system’s dependency on people receiving wages and paying tax. The system may be good in creating equality and high social security for its people, but I would argue that just as it has its strength in the people, it also has its weakness. It promises to secure the people in its society, but if too many lose their jobs due to e.g. labor cuts, or their will to pay tax becomes poisoned by the “unfairness”, then where does that lead us?

Lane Kenworthy says equality is feasible, and if the Scandinavian model is proof of this, then yes. But even so, this equal society faces its hardships, relying heavily on the people to support it. Immigrants and a higher rate of unemployed people may put pressure on this system by raising questions of what is “fair” and “just”. An equal society may be feasible, but even then its questionable whether it is “just” and what then makes a society “fair”.

Reference

Kenworthy, Lane. 2007. “Is Equality Feasible?” Contexts 6(3):28-32.

Care a Commodity in Crisis

Anonymous student post

Earlier this semester we talked about the migrant work that women were doing and how it has led to the care crisis we see today; these women have, although out of necessity, chosen to work as caregivers to other people’s children.

The first factor that plays a big role in this accepting shift toward the adoption of imported care is the modernization of the first worlds, in my opinion. We as a society are always looking for a more efficient or easier way to do the things we need to do, and it is only “natural” that this search leaks into our personal lives. When was the last time you wanted to get up from that chair you’re in and manually look up how to do something; It takes time to look-up the needed information in a book compared to using the fast and easy-to-use super computer that’s laying at your side everyday in your pocket; well not so long ago that was the standard way and the only way. This hunt for the efficient way in connection with the modern cost of living means either both parents have to work to sustain a family or a single mother or father might have to work over time to do the same. This shift in society structure leads to the need for a caregiver, someone that can be there all the time, simplify the workload, and decrease the stress of having two jobs, parent and employee.

The second and third factors that play a big role is the demand for these migrant workers is both the families looking for help, and by the workers themselves who want to earn a better wage. These women make far more working for other people’s families then if they were to work in the Philippines. These two factors of demand are the reasons why “some 34-50% of Filipino population is sustained by remittance from migrant workers” (RhacelParrenas).  As for the employers, parents either together or single, want and need the time to step back in this day and age, and it’s an easily possible thing to obtain with the help of a migrant caregiver who is willing to literally raise your child and help with everything; Not only that, but they work for a decently cheap wage in comparison to hiring a nanny or babysitter from the home country. That wage, although small, trickles down the economic system and completes a support chain that is crucial to the lives of everyone connected to it because of the mass adoption to this demand.  The parent who employees need the cheap family support, the migrant workers need the money to help their families back home, and in the grand scale of things, both the economy need both parties of the transaction working to contribute to there local workforce and economy.

Lastly, like in classes we talked about, we know this is a problem, but is it the lesser of two evils or should we try to find a way to shift these women’s work back towards their home countries somehow? There is no easy solution to adjusting a whole country’s economic dependence of a portion of the population that needs the money and no way to shift the current sociological wants of the societies from these supporting counties hiring these women. Can we sit back and watch the trend fade or will this out sourcing care in the exchange of the lost care of another’s continue.

Now, at any time did you think does that migrant worker have a family or a child? Yes, a lot of them do, does it make a difference if you only know one side of the story? Just like the lack of information on the other child, the other child lacks far more. He or she lacks a connection that I can’t make palpable in any amount of words. They see their mother on very rare occasions and live their lives with little to no knowledge of a mother’s care; whereas other child get the care of their birth mother and basically a second mom.  I know that in my heart that this changes everything, I feel the ache of thinking about my life without my mother. She was my heart, my haven, and the person I could always talk to. What can I do though in this great big world for someone so far away? Well I propose we don’t forget; that we remember the others and maybe a shift can happen in the future.

Reference

Parreñas, Rhacel. 2003. “The care crisis in the Philippines: children and transnational families in the new global economy.” Pp. 39-54 in Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy, edited by Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Hochschild. New York: New York Metropolitan.  http://www.academia.edu/490445/The_care_crisis_in_the_Philippines_children_and_transnational_families_in_the_new_global_economy

Enjoying work and family

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Yuri Kamino

I have not made a concrete plan about what I’m going to do in the future, but I vaguely imagine that in the fourth year I will fight against the glacial age of hiring, work for a company, marry someone, have babies, raise them and in the latter half, I will live a slow life with my husband, many grandchildren and dogs.

Job hunting is waiting for us and as many classmates have said, it becomes more difficult to get good work without enough knowledge. For university students, I think it is quite natural to hope to find good or top-rank work and live a better life because it costs a lot to go a university, so they desire to get work that corresponds to the money they have spent. However, personally I think it is not necessarily important to be employed in what is called a first-class company. Of course I want to get a better job, but for me, it is more essential whether I can enjoy the job at the company and handle both a career and raising children.

I have two points for my job hunting. One is that can the company be my ibasho. These days, the number of people who work oneself to death is increasing. More and more “kaisha-man or woman” sacrifice their holidays and private time. They also suffer from stress among their companies. I don’t think these situations can never be my ibasho. Maybe I will relate to the company for a long time, so I wish to keep a good relations with them.

The other point is that whether the company has a sufficient system for women to concentrate on both their job and childcare. Today, more and more women are doing great things in society, but there are still many companies which treat them as less important because they tend to retire from their jobs or take long vacations when they marry and give birth. As established by law, we can take childcare leave until our child reaches the age of 1. However under these companies, I could not pay much attention to my child. I strongly hope to build family with boundless love and wish it can be ibasho for my children.

I think that for children, family is the most important and for me, a job is essential to live more worthy life so, I am eager to seek for a way which I can meet both.

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Balancing work and family in future Japan

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Tomomi Hosokawa

I want to work with taking care of my children in the future. This is because I want to let my children challenge anything they have interest, as my parents let me do. For example, when I was an elementary school student, I was taking four kinds of lessons, shodo, piano, tennis and cram school. I continued them until I graduated from elementary school, about six years. I appreciate my parents giving me the opportunity to have good experiences.

However, my family is not so rich, so both my parents are working. My mother is working so hard and she is very busy, but when I was sick in bed, she took me to the hospital and nursed me. I believe that she could do so thanks to the system of the company she works on. She works in a division in which all of the workers are women. In addition, most of them have children. They know how hard housework and taking care of children are. Therefore, when something happen to children, other workers help their mother, and she can go to see children, like my experience. Instead, when other person cannot work, she helps her.

According to Allison, the difference between men and women on salary or position of job is obvious. However, this situation is changing in the future. Women will have more opportunities to be promoted, but this also means women may be away from home. Of course, children will still need someone to care for them, so if both of parents have to work, they may give up either having children or better circumstances. If I will be in the same situation, I may give up having children because I do not know whether I will have enough money to take care of my children. I think it is irresponsible to have children in that situation. In order to prevent this, I believe the system like the company my mother is working for is useful. Of course, enough coverage like childcare leave for both women and men or no indiscriminate of position or salary to who have children is necessary, taking this future circumstance into consideration. However, I think only the coverage is not enough. I hope to have a good workplace environment. If there is a system for workers who have children to support each other, like my mother’s, we can feel relieved because we can control the job flexibly for children. Also, because there are many workers who have the same situation as us, we can understand that other workers go home before the work is out or absence. Also, we can cover the absence on the other day when other person cannot work. These matters can remove anxiety about being looked coldly. There are many cases that such workers were blamed by their co-workers. I believe both monetary and mental support are needed in this society.

Reference

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Family communication and gender equality

Note from Editor: Students are reading Anne Allison’s book Precarious Japan, and sharing their thoughts on how their own future plans are impacted by the instability and insecurity that Allison describes.

by Hitoshi Haruki

In this class, I’m reading Precarious Japan by Anne Allison, and I was surprised at the many problems in Japan. In this book, it was established that there will be many problems in Japan in the future such as hikikomori, the rise of people who do a part-time job and do not work as a full-time employee, and dying alone. I would like to consider Japan’s future in this post.

First of all, Allison says that dying alone is one of the most severe problems in Japan. I think there are a lot of causes of dying alone. Especially when people have weak connections. Due to the spread of the Internet, people have imaginary friends. They make friends on the Internet. They always stay home and use the Internet. They cannot do face-to-face communication. They cannot even communicate with their family and do not have strong connection which lead to dying alone. The solution of this problem is that people have more opportunities to do face-to-face communication. To prevent dying alone, it is important to communicate with one’s own family. For example, people should always have a meal with their family and talk about their daily lives. If I get married, I will keep in mind the importance of face-to-face communication. I want to live in a loving home.

Allison also mentions there is the problem of women’s status. In Japan people thought men were to work for a company while women were to do housework in the past. This tendency still remains in some measure. For example it is easier for men to work as a full-time worker than women because many women are likely to cease work when they get married. Married women are expected to raise talented children whom will have graduated from a high level university, so they have to devote themselves to raise their children. In my opinion, not only women should raise children but also men should as well because men are also responsible for raising children. Moreover, raising children is hard labor, so men should help women. For example, when men take the day off, they take care of the children. In my plan, if I have children, I want to work together with my wife.

In conclusion, I want to have strong connections with people and have a loving home. To reach this, I should try to achieve a high level of face-to-face communication. Furthermore, when raising children, women should not only be the one to raise children, but men should also help as well because raising children is very difficult. Personally I think our future is bright, though there are still many problems we will have to face in the future.

References

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

“Ikumen” – The real situation in Japan and comparison to Sweden

A father and his children.

A father and his children. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Aki Yamada

Ikumen” is the expression and slang of the father in Japan who takes care of his children positively instead of the mother, and who enjoys child care. In 2006, one Japanese company started to use Ikumen in order to encourage father’s participation into childcare and stop the decreasing of population of Japan. After that, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare began to project of Ikumen in 2010 trying to make better society for business men to take part in domestic work and encourage childcare. In this essay, I would like to discuss how Ikumen made an impact for Japanese father trough the gap between ideal purpose and real situation in the first part and in the second, I will compare systems and laws between Japan and Sweden, which quite famous for its developed childcare system for father.

Firstly, possibly if you are Japanese, many times you might hear about the word, Ikumen in dramas, books and magazines. Actually, according to the public-opinion poll in 2000, 70 percent of family agreed that father take caring of their child and 10 percent of father strongly desire to do childcare by himself. However, most of their real opinions say that I want to do childcare but “I want to focus on my work” or “women have to take care of child”. Therefore, I think more and more father think that they want to help mother, however, still stereotype of gender role reminds in Japanese soiety.

Second of all, I would like to see the Japanese government’s movements for supporting Ikumen and compare them to Sweden’s processes of how they adopt father to take care of child. In 1992, the Japanese government made the law about Child‐Care Leave Law for men for the first time. And after that, in 2002, they made an agenda for the goal that archive 10 percent increase of childcare leave. Additionally, they also made the law for companies to have the system of enough childcare leave for men.

Those movements made Japanese society easier for father to have childcare leave and take care of child, however, it is not enough because we need more comprehensive support system from both government and companies. At that same time, when we see the system of Sweden, they also spent 30 years to adopt their Ikumen support system from 1974 such as making childcare leave system for 240 days for each gender, giving 80 percent of salary for father when he is taking childcare leave, and providing money for $18 for each day as an allowance. Therefore, I can say that Japan also need more long time to be good society for Ikumen like Sweden did.

Gender Structure in Working Place in Japan

by Asako Morita

Gender role has been considered as a part of culture and behaviors of people tend to be based on gender role. In Japan, historically men have worked outside and women have been housewives. This family structure is recognized as common sense so many workplaces are not well prepared for women to work long and secured. Because of the whole structure, women are easy to be in an economically vulnerable position. In this short essay, I would like to seek Northern European countries where more women have well advanced in society and what systems can fit in Japanese system.

In Japan, lifetime employment system has been normal and once you quit a job, it is hard to get a job which has as same as the previous condition.  However, with the onset of cataclysmic changes in the economic climate in 2009, employers began laying off and dismissing massive numbers of non-permanent workers and workers employed on a part-time or contract basis for periods of less than one year. Compared to regular employment, non-regular employment is able to receive limited company’s benefit package and unsecured. In Japan, about 60 percent of women quit jobs after they get married or give birth and afterward, they only have option to work as a non-regular or part-time workers. Because of the common sense of gender role, men tend not to do housekeeping or child caring but working as a breadwinner. It means only super women can raise children and work at the same time.

On the other hand, in Northern European countries, even though most women work as non-regular workers, they are satisfied with the job condition and they are able to handle both raising children and working since non-regular workers can work flexibly. The biggest difference from Japanese system is that non-regular workers are also well secured and they can receive a good benefit package from company. Therefore, most women choose to take non-regular jobs and they do not have to give up anything. Other difference is how long men contribute to family and households. I think one of the reason is working hour of Japanese men is too long and not enough time to be at home.

Surely it is difficult to fit the whole system of Northern European countries to Japan. However, I think Japanese working environment has way less flexibility and it hinders the entrance of women into the workforce. Now it is essential to create more flexibility at workplaces and expanding career switch market for both women and men’s opportunity for balancing work and family.