Balancing work and family for a fulfilling life

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

by Naho Onishi

My life plan is this: after graduation, I want to get a job that is related to traveling. I will work 2, 3 years and save money. Then I desire to get married by the time I am thirty and have a child. I will keep working after taking care of my baby.

In this plan, I worry about working when I have a child. Now, women are encouraged to take childcare leave. However, in fact, when they come back to the work place, they feel “ibashoganai“. They are often assigned to other work place and section after childcare leave. Moreover, they are not entrusted with important jobs. Even if they can return their work place, their child is very young. So, child care is very hard. If their child catch a disease, mother must absent from work, and care for child. They feel difficult to manage her work and family life.

Recently, I heard the word “paternity leave.” For mothers, the father’s help is very happy, and they can take care of their baby together. However, fathers worry about after child care leave too. Especially men, they work a lot more time than women. They think that “if I can not return to my work place, what can I do?” While they can receive child care leave, their payment is lower then their regular wage. And they think that “if I can not go to work, my co-workers will feel trouble because they must cover my work.” They are concerned about family finances and situation after they take child care leave, and they can not take leave willingly. So, the rate of men who take paternity leave is very low. If they feel “ibasho” after child care leave, this rate may become higher.

I want to feel “ibasho” in my office in the future. The time that I spend in jobs may be the longest in my life. It is about three times as long as school days. Of course, my home is my most important “ibasho“. But, work place is different from home in terms of roles. Work has responsibility as a member of society. It is important to feel this job is worth doing. And co-worker give us a good incentive to work harder. It is same with studying too. I think both family life and work are the key to a fulfilling life.

Both the company and the public should create more comfortable society and “ibasho“. Mutual cooperation is the key to stable and peace society.

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Civil service for a secure future?

Editor’s note: Students have been reading Anne Allison‘s Precarious Japan and are commenting how recent economic and social challenges in Japan are impacting their plans for their futures.

by Michiyo Umezato

My future plan is to be a national civil servant after I graduate from the university. I have three reasons. First, I never lose my job: national servants do not have “ristora”. As Anne Allison discussed in her book, contemporary Japan is very precarious, so the most important thing on working is stability, I think. When I was a child, I wanted to have a more unstable occupation: pro golfer, pastry chef, and so on. However, as I got older, I thought I should get more stable job. Second, it is easier for women to take a maternity leave and reinstate after it. Of course, women’s reinstatement is getting usual in general company but, it is still about 20 percent. “Matahara” is very serious problem too. Third, all of my family (father, mother and two sisters) are national civil servants. So, I can know many various things about job easily.

In order to take a maternity leave, I have to marry with someone and bear a baby. I feel this is one of the most difficult events in my life. As I mentioned above, stability is very important. So, I am going to marry a man of a national civil servant like my parents and want two children.

After I retire the job, I want to immigrate to the place which is very tranquil: New Zealand, Hawaii, New Caledonia and so on. This is because if Japan does not change a lot, this country would be still unkind to elderly people. Maybe I will not live so long. I want to die around seventy.

Next, I think “ibasho” is the place I can relax and speak my mind. Especially we Japanese put a high value on “honne to tatemae”. So, to speak our minds means we trust you. When we are with people we trust: family, best friends and so on, we can relax. I feel “ba” and “ibasho” are mixed. For example, in the class room, if I sit down alone, there is “ba” but, if I sit down with my friend, there is “ibasho”. They are being inseparable. Also, these ideas relate to some Japanese social problems. People who cannot make “ibasho” in society become hikikomori or get kodokushi (dying alone). Also, I think these problems are caused by smartphone and internet. They bring us fictitious ibasho: friends or community on the internet. It is not real ibasho. This hallucination is cause of them. We should think about how to use them more.