Living on minimum wage in Japan

by Tomomi Hosokawa

In Japan, minimum wage is about 760 yen on average (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, 2013). This is low compared to other developed countries. This is one of the factors of poverty in Japan. If I must live with minimum wage in Japan, I would struggle with both physical and mental pain. For example, a woman in the book Precarious Japan is a temporary worker, and she gets less than 50,000 yen a month. She was in bad health, but she could not go to hospital. In addition, that woman could not receive welfare because she was young and seen as healthy enough to work. This is directly related to life. If I am a temporary worker like her, I will also suffer from the anxiety of losing a job. Companies usually dismiss low-wage workers like temporary workers. If I was fired, I could not rent a room and I would not have enough money to find a new job. I have no choice but to be turned adrift. In this case, it is difficult to rely on family or friends because I do not want them to know about my situation. Also, I do not want to trouble them.

Many people are suffering from this problem in Japan. How can this be solved? According to Anne Allison (2013, p.58), “Making the lives and circumstances of such people visible in and to the public is part of Yuasa’s wider agenda in his reverse poverty”. I agree with this opinion because this will be the connection to the society. If they can feel someone understand them, they will be relieved. Also, community will begin to face this problem if they notice that.

However, I believe it is the obligation of government to make the situation of such people be seen and solve the problem. This is because government is one of the factors of this. They set the minimum wage lowest in the developed countries. In addition, only the people who passed strict requirement can receive welfare. They have responsibility to share and come to grips with this problem to make the connection to the society for them.

References

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

Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (2013) http://www.mhlw.go.jp/stf/seisakunitsuite/bunya/koyou_roudou/roudoukijun/minimumichiran/index.html

 

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“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.

“Recognizing” and “Understanding” Ikumen

by Chihiro Kobayashi

My mother and father both work as middle school teachers. Even though they engage in the same job, their life styles are very different. My mother’s day starts from cooking a breakfast for the family and making a lunch box for me. One hour later, my father wakes up and starts eating it as if it were air. As soon as my family finishes eating them, my mother washes the dishes and then starts hanging out the cloths to dry. After she finishes her paid work, she comes back to home earlier than my father to cook dinner for us.

Even though my mother works as same paid job as my father, she engages in much more unpaid housework than father. Since my grandmother has very strict and traditional idea toward gender role, my father is not allowed to enter the kitchen to help cooking and washing. My mother often told me that housework should not be the role of only women.

Recently, more and more Japanese women work outside to make money since only husband’s salary is not enough to support their family. Also, Japanese society itself wants to increase the working women because aging society will leads the less working generation. Even though the number of full-time housewife is decreasing and working women is increasing, the idea that housework is a role of women is still remained. As a result, women are struggling with the double burden of paid labor work and unpaid housework.

Since 2010, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has started Ikumen project (育メンプロジェクト) which has established for the purpose of increasing the social momentum of male participation in child care.

Thanks to this project and other effects by mass media, the “recognition” of child caring father has widespread certainly. For example, the cooking book targeting men, Ryori Danshi (料理男子), is very popular and the number of cooking shows by men is increasing. Also, the drama and books talking about Ikumen is popular among women.

However, when I see around myself, there is not so many or no Ikumen yet. I wonder whether Ikumen really exist or are they just a fantasy made by mass media and government. I guess even though the “recognition” of Ikumen has widespread, the “understanding” toward Ikumen is not spread yet and that is why there is not so many or no Ikumen.

For example, I read an article about Ikumen and it described how Ikumen are seen from the Japanese society. When one guy brought his child to the hospital, the doctor asked him “Where is your wife?” Also, when he brought his child to the park, other mothers were talking that his wife depends on her husband, does not take care children and does not play a role as a housewife. Most of the Japanese people know and “recognize” the word Ikumen, but they, even women, still have traditional idea of gender role, and “understanding” of the Ikumen has not spread yet.

Though I do think Ikumen will play an important role in the Japanese future, I do not want to pressure and force every father to be an Ikumen. There is no correct one answer of the way father care their child. Some fathers prioritize their career up and get a better position, while others want to balance their work and housework. I can say the same thing to the women.

I think how parents share their work and housework should be depended on their choice, environment and values. Therefore, I think it is important to make a society which both women and men can share and choose their work and housework flexibly. To attain that society, I think one of the important first steps is to spread the “understanding” of Ikumen among Japanese society. If society flexibly accepts both shufu (主婦) and shufu (主夫), and people recognize and understand both of them, I believe Japanese traditional gender role will be changed.

“Ikumen”: challenges and support of new generation of Japanese fathers

by Dina Akylbekova

For many years Japan was famous for the social phenomenon of workaholics but last few years the new concept of “ikumen” has gotten attention from both domestic and foreign press.

What does this “mysterious” concept of ikumen mean? The word “ikumen” is a word combination of the Japanese “ikuji” (child care) and the English “men” (Koh, 2010). Ikumen is officially defined as a “men who enjoy parenting and grow through parenting or those who wish to do so in the future” or just basically a stay-at-home dad (MHLW, 2012).

It is interesting that there is media interest in such a thing as a stay-at-home dad. The stay-at-home dad is nonsense for Japanese society with the strong traditional family model, in which men are workaholic “breadwinners” and women are caring mothers and good wives. The average Japanese man, who follows canons of traditional family model spends only 30 minutes per day for care work, including child care (MHLW, 2011). The rate of fathers’ care leave of 2.63% (among all working men with children) also shows the low level of fathers’ engagement into child bearing process (MHLW, 2011).

However, a recent survey revealed that more than a half of Japanese men want to spend more time with their children (Benesse, 2011). There are many factors hindering male family engagement, the most concerning ones are overwork and social pressure. Japanese workers, who prioritize the family over work and neglect overwork “tradition”, can be considered as irresponsible, incompetent and selfish workers. Moreover, many employers consider fathers’ parental leave as the end of the professional career’s end. Japanese men, who are willing to be engaged more into family issues, face many social and professional challenges.

Fortunately, the Japanese government has started a large-scale policy towards the improvement of gender equality, which includes the promotion of father’s family engagement. The policy includes a social campaign “Ikumen Project”. The campaign consists of seminars, events promoting father’s participation in child bearing, moreover supporting websites are created.

Additionally, there is an on-going media campaign, which includes the production of dramas and TV-shows about ikumen, for instance, a popular movie “Usagi drop”. Moreover, some politicians joined the promotion by taking parental leave: the governor of Hiroshima Hidehiko Yuzaki and the mayor of the central Bunkyo ward Hironobu Narisawa (Koh, 2010).

Maybe, the social campaigns and famous people’ role models will make the society to accept father’s childcare leave and promote new values to the young generations. Finally, Japanese society has to face many challenges before reaching gender equality and forming new family model. The emerging “ikumen” phenomenon supported by the government is giving a hope for more positive changes in Japanese families and society.

References

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan http://www.mhlw.go.jp

Koh Y., 2010. “Japan’s Next Big Thing: Stay-at-Home Dads?”, Japan Times.

Benesse Institute for Child Sciences and Parenting “Wishing to be ikumen: The Ideal and Reality of Young Japanese Fathers