The influence of women’s social advancement in Japan on my future plan

The Great Wave off Kanagawa

The Great Wave off Kanagawa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Anonymous student post

My academic interest in the IR field is peace and conflict studies, post- conflict peace-building, and the Middle East. One of my future dreams is to give peace education and human resource development for children in conflict areas by offering some artwork and developing it into critical thinking. In order to do so, I need to improve my own knowledge and skills. Therefore, I am planning to study abroad at the post-graduate school of London University, SOAS, after graduating from Ritsumeikan University. I have not decided yet whether to take a framework-making approach such as working for an international organization, or a grassroots approach, such as local staff of a NGO. However, in either way, certain period of work experience in companies is likely to be required, therefore I would once get a job in a company to have some social experience.

I think one phenomenon that Anne Alison pointed out in her book Precarious Japan, women’s social advancement in the workforce, might affect my plan at this stage. According to the statistics of the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, 34.2 percent of Japanese women (one in three single women) aged 15-39 wishes to be a housewife. Similarly, survey conducted by the cabinet office shows that 51 percent of Japanese people answered that it is ideal for men to work outside as a breadwinner and women to be a housewife. This number increased by 20 points, compared to the number of the survey in 2009, among the age of 20 to 30 years old.

This tendency is due to the despairing situation for female workers to develop a career steadily in their jobs, and the recent economic stagnation. According to Anne Alison (2013), irregular workers are those who are the most precarious in Japanese society because they have minimal rights and protection, and can easily get fired. Women make up 70 percent of irregular workers, and have the worst status by experiencing the worst gendered disparity of all industrialized countries.

Although Japanese society is becoming a result-based employment, women suffer from likewise disadvantage of employment even in regular employment and full-time work. It is based on underlying sexually biased premise that men are the breadwinner and women stay home as a housewife (Alison, 2013). They only earn about 67 percent of men’s salary and around 80 percent of working women makes less than 3,000,000 yen a year. Also, 44 percent of working women receive less than the minimum wage of the year and the number of women staying in professional jobs is remarkably low. The percentage of women having managerial posts is considerably low as well. Moreover, 80 percent of women workers retire after giving birth to her first child (Allison, 2013).

In conclusion, when I look at this current situation, I guess it may be very hard for me to get a highly paid secure job and advance my career in a company, especially when I am planning to ultimately move out and change my job to work in international cooperation. Therefore I have anxiety about whether  I could successfully become economically independent from my parents and pursue my dreams at the same time. In other words, I have to work very hard not become a parasite single.

References

Alison, A. (2013). Precarious Japan. Duke University press.

Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. (March, 2013). Wakamono no ishiki ni kansuru chousa [statistic on youth’s consciousness survey]. Retrieved fromhttp://www.mhlw.go.jp/file/04-Houdouhappyou-12605000-Seisakutoukatsukan- Seisakuhyoukakanshitsu/0000022200.pdf

Gender Equality Bureau cabinet Office. (April,2012). Dansei ni totte no danjo kyoudousannka [Survey of male’s consciousness on gender equality].Retrieved from http://www.gender.go.jp/research/kenkyu/dansei_ishiki/pdf/chapter_1.pdf

 

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Seeking stability, but how?

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.

Anonymous student post

“Stability” is what I would look for in my future work. With whatever job I would have, that will be the top priority I would expect from my work. As Allison pointed out, “stability” seems to be fading away from today’s Japanese society, in terms of economy and social relationships. Therefore, it is possible that this phenomenon will make it very difficult for me to find a job which would meet my expectations for my future career. In addition, because of this phenomenon, there is currently a serious competition in job hunting among the younger generations. Certainly, I will have to be part of the job competition as a competitor in a few years and somehow I will need to find a way to get around the barrier to have a secure job. Now the question is “How?” It can be said that there is no perfect answer for the question, whereas, there are two things which I believe are very important to work on in order to answer the question.

Firstly, it is to have a few but good qualifications. I am aware that it sounds so predictable, on the other hand, my point is that I belive I should be careful not to underestimate the importance of having qualifications. At a job interview, qualifications will play a big role in representing how you can contribute to whichever company you are applying for. Without them, you would be judged as a person with no potential to dedicate yourself to the company and a society around you, even if you are a skilled person with a strong will to utilize it for them. Hence, I appreciate how important it is to have some qualifications for myself and I have been working on this since I entered my university. I believe that being a university student gave me a privilege to have a lot of free time that I can spend on however I would like to, therefore, I consider it as a great opportunity to spend those free time on investing in myself.

Secondly, the other thing I consider is crucial to work on is to develop communication skills. Again, this may sound predictable, however, it is one of the most important skills to enable yourself to express what kind of person you are to the others. For example, Japan, with its slow pace, seems to be transforming into a more global nation, and therefore, there are more chances for us to meet people with different nationalities and backgrounds nowadays. To be able to interact well with those who have different cultures and perspectives, I have been striving to learn about some other cultures, languages, religions, politics ,et cetera in my course. If I had proper knowledge about them, I would know how I should talk to the people in an appropriate way. Hence, the way how you communicate with people show your personality in a sense ,and that is why developing a communication skill is believed to be very important.

Free style life in liquid 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 Maya Hattori

Graduating university, surviving the job-hunting, getting a firm job, becoming a mature shakaijin, getting married and having kids… this is the typical scenario that Japanese think to be success in life. However, this does not apply to me. I will view my future focusing on two topics – work and having a family.

First, I still do not have any concrete plans what to become or in what kind of field to dedicate myself. However, the typical Japanese job-hunting seems ridiculous to me. Some people, indeed, get their top choice jobs. However, recently, as the job hunting is getting more and more competitive, many people have to get through interviews with over hundred companies until they are hired. This means they no longer have a choice what kind of jobs they want, which leads to depression, frustration or leaving the company soon after they got hired. Moreover, dressed the same way and having the same hairstyle or doing things that seem to be helpful improving your images for the interviews also appears wrong to me. The pressure of the job hunting is killing our characters and ambitions. Therefore, at the moment, I am not thinking of becoming an employee of a usual company but pursuing what I like and trying to create a new business system or style. Though I may fail once or more, challenging keeps me from regretting. Due to the precariousness of Japan, I don’t expect any kind of stability anymore. Having a secure and long-term job may be stable and secure, however, being flexible and changeable seems more exciting, challenging and interesting. For example, some friends of mine are furitā and change their jobs a lot, but still have fun and know their identities and what they want to do. Therefor, I think it is not correct to see them as losers or not-shakaijin. Moreover, I think my job scene does not have to be in Japan.

Next, I may get married at some point in the future, if I want to. However, I don’t like the pressure that Japanese give to unmarried women who are getting older. Moreover, getting married because of pregnancy is the last thing I want to do. My ideal style is to have a partner with whom I can share a part of my life but still pursue my own dreams and live my life – vice versa. After having children, I still don’t think that marriage should be hurried. I can get married at any age but I can’t have children if I’m too old. People who get married too young or with a feeling of responsibility tend to get divorced. When you have children and live with a partner, you never have the risk to get divorced anyway.

As Allison says, there is nothing stable or secure anymore in this country. Therefore, I think it is the best to make the most and live for the moment. The future does not guarantee you anything. I would like to create my life without considering the risks or what others say.

Avoiding becoming hikikomori

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 Masanori Takino

The more precarious Japan is, the more difficult expecting my future is. As Anne Allison mentioned in her book, since the end of the bubble economy, Japan has been in a hard situation. This essay will focuses on terms such as hikikomori, and ibasho, and my expectation of my future.

First of all, I do not desire to be hikikomori in my future. General thinking in Japan, the word, hikikomori, gives people negative images such as not working, staying in your room all the day, and begging for money from your family. I strongly hope to get my own job, full-time employment, after my graduation from the university. One of the requirements of not being hikikomori is in the stable position in the work. Full-time employment guarantees  security; the stable and high salaries, some vacations in a year, and insurance.

However, if I pursued job stability, I would have to become a public officer. While the economy situation is precarious in Japan, the work conditions are also unstable. Even if people could obtain full-time employment in the usual companies, they might get fired when the company is in a troubled situation. The most stable jobs in Japan is “public officer.” The jobs will not force the worker to quit. That is why there is a huge competition in Japan. I am the one of it. I desire to be a public officer to pursue this stability. If I fail it, at least, I would like to get the full time employment. I am not hikikomori.

Second is about my ibasho. It is difficult to express it. For example, one of my ibasho is the department of International Relations at Ritsumeikan University. I have friends there, and I have never felt loneliness there. I am not sure about my future ibasho, however it will be the place I will belong to. If I could succeed in job hunting, my ibasho will be the company which employs me. If not, I will be hikikomori, so my ibasho will be my room. My ibasho in my future is depending on what I will become. So I hope my ibasho will be a company.

In conclusion, my future is precarious, same as the present Japanese situation. In a few years, I hope the situation will drastically change, and become much more stable than now.

My dream in precarious 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 Narumi Ito

Anne Allison describes life in Japan as precarious. Many problems were revealed after the big earthquake in Tohoku, on March 11, 2011. For instance, hiseikikoyou, muen-shakai, kodokushi and ibasho.  People have the image of Japan: Japan is dark, unstable and liquid. People tend to have worries about their future because of these problems. I focused on job and ibasho when I think about my future. I will explain two things.

First is work. I want to get a job after I will graduate from the university, not a part-time job but a secure job. I think that a secure job has social security and a few vacations in a year. The most important thing that I seek in the future is where I can work until I retire. “Stability” is the most important thing for me. Not only me but also everyone may search for a secure job.

However, it is difficult for a person to get a job in Japan. After the collapse of the bubble economy and the Lehman Shock, many companies cannot hire young people for lifetime employment. People who graduated from university and have good skill cannot be employed. Nowadays, more than 50% of young people go on to university. It may cause worse a job shortage because graduating a university is natural and lets people concentrate on their educational background. Thus they may not get the job that they seek. According to some data, the problem of a job shortage is improved gradually but nobody knows how is going on in the future. I have to worry about my future job.

Second is ibasho. I would like to get married and have a baby. The family that I make in the future will become an ibasho for me. I think that ibasho is the place I can feel relaxed and comfortable, have relationships and be sought by anyone. I do not seek ibasho at work thus I cherish it at home. People may have ibasho somewhere, yet people who are afraid of ibasho are increasing in modern Japan. Japanese seem to worry about the relationships extraordinarily because they may think that building good and strong connection with someone can keep their ibasho because people may be able to find their own ibasho in the connections. This idea is usual for Japanese. Thus people who do not stay in their ibasho feel isolation, and the lonliness sometimes makes people kill themselves.

I have felt keenly ibasho once in my life. When I went to Australia to study abroad, I stayed at host’s house. I talked with the family every day and I love the family, however, I could not feel relaxed and was always tired. I did not know the reason why I felt stress. After I finished studying abroad, I went back to my home. Just then, I could feel relieved and feel comfortable. Thus I seek my ibasho in my future-family by this experience.

Modern Japan has many problems. It is complicated to have a secure job and have connections. The situation may become worse or better. I should keep up with the trend of times and defeat this problems. I have negative image of Japan in the future but I will try hard and be realized my dream.

Reference

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

Finding my ibasho in society

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 Yusuke Sugiyama

When I think about my future, I cannot imagine that what kind of work I would do, and what kind of people I would connect with. However, one thing which I want to value in my life is relationship with others. I want to place emphasis on a time, opportunity and ibasho which I can deal with others.

I was born in Kobe and lived with my family before I entered Ritsumeikan University, and it is my ibasho where my family and my friends who spent a same time for 18 years live. Then, I entered this University and I started to live alone in Kyoto, and all is new for me. Naturally there is no ibasho where I can really get comfortable, and it was not until I am away from a familiar ibasho that I understood the importance of family, friends and that is ibasho. Everyday life was terrible before I found my ibasho in Kyoto.

I think ibasho is one of the most important things in our life, and the people who cannot find own ibasho in society have possibility to be hikikomori. Maybe there are many people such them in present Japan. Now I have some important ibasho, it is indispensable for my school life. That is why I would like to place emphasis on connection with people in the future and also I will improve my communication skill for it in University life.

In addition, as my future direction, I would like to overcome a linguistics barrier and get an ibasho because people who live different countries have different ideas. I like the surprise which I feel when I realize new idea from different point of view, and so I would like to over the border, and find my ibasho. Also, I think that I can realize a Japanese precariousness and a good point of Japan. Therefore, I will go to a lot of countries in my life.

When I think about my future job, I do not have a concrete idea, but I want to earn enough money to be able to make a trip, play with my friends, and repay my parents for raising me so well. Indeed, Japan is an unstable society now and it might be difficult to get stable job, but if I am into such a situation, I will find my ibasho in society, and place importance on a connection with people.

Seeking ibasho at home and work

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.

Anonymous student post

My goal in the future is to work for the Ministry of Defense in Japan. I had an opportunity to listen to a lecture by a staff member of the Ministry of Defense at Ritsumeikan University. I became interested in working for Japan and thinking about how improve the position of Japan in international society through this lecture. The staff at the Ministry of Defense requires a high knowledge of security. Therefore, hard work and various experiences are necessary when I am a Ritsumeikan University student. Although I have a clear future goal in working, working is not everything in life. Through Anne Allison’s Precarious Japan, I rethink the concept of ibasho.

Where is my ibasho? Ibasho is a comfortable place to me. Although it is invisible, a good life needs it. My present ibasho is family, Ritusmeikan University, the American football team, and so on. I think having more than one ibasho is necessary, one is family and the others are public, for example school and company. My anxiety in the future is that I can get ibasho in both family and work.

Unfortunately, Japan is still not a women-friendly society. It is true that the number of working women is increasing and the condition for working women is improving. However, Japanese society still has a trend in which woman should have the burden of child rearing and housework. A lot of working women quit their jobs because of giving birth and child rearing. Some companies wish pregnant women to quit their job. It is difficult for women to get both ibasho in family and work.

I would like to be able to cope with my work and my family like my mother does. However, my mother’s work is women-friendly. She took childcare until I was 2 years old and got summer and winter vacations. I would like to choose work that I want to do. When I am employed, I hope Japan is a more women-friendly society.

Working as a public official: a path to stability and security?

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.

Anonymous student post

I have clearly no idea about my plans for the future, but I think I want to be a public official. There are three reasons.

First, the welfare system is more advanced than in other jobs. According to Allison, “Stuck at a low pay level, irregular workers are often unprotected at the workplace as well; easily replaced and fired, their rights are minimal at best” (p. 32). Workers are relatively compensated, have various holidays such as a childcare leave, nursing care leave and so on. In particular, for women, if they leave their work, it is easier to come back to their workplace.

Second, a public official is a stable job. After the bubble economy burst in the early 1990s, Japan experienced a serious stagnation. Many people were laid off by companies, and many young people couldn’t find jobs. This circumstances continues even until now. On the other hand, once you work as a public official, you are basically able to work until you are sixty years old. During those roughly forty years, public officials can get a constant salary. In addition, Allison says “Those in a position to have what once constituted the social contract of postwar Japan—hard work today tied to marriage, home, and progressive prosperity for children tomorrow—tend to be limited to those with regular employment” (p. 33). As she says, whether you work as a regular worker or irregular worker is greatly related to your future.

Third, the existence of my mother affects my idea. My mother is a public school teacher, so she is a public official. When I was young, I was taken to her workplace. I saw her as a teacher for the first time. She was cool. As I think she is independent of the society, I respect her. In the future, I want to be like her.

In spite of her good status, she seemed not to be satisfied with her current situation, because she is very busy. She has to not only work but also do housework. She has two social roles. One is a teacher to teach English, and another is a mother to cook meal and do the laundry and so on. She always says “Although both of us (my father and my mother) work, why do only I have to do housework?” My family case shows that women still struggle with the life-work balance, because the traditional concept that men should work, and women should do housework remains current society.

In conclusion, although there is a problem, I want to be energetic in society. As I think a public officer is a job to do so, I want to be a public officer.

References

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

My Future Plan

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.

Anonymous student post

“Stability” is what I would look for in my future work. With whatever job I would have, that will be the top priority I would expect from my work. As Anne Allison points out, “stability” seems to be fading away from today’s Japanese society, in terms of economy and social relationship. Therefore, it is possible that this phenomenon will make it very difficult for me to find a job which would meet my expectation for my future career. In addition, because of this phenomenon, there is currently a serious competition in job hunting among the young generations. Certainly, I will have to be part of the job competition as a competitor in a few years and somehow I will need to find a way to get around the barrier to have a secure job. Now the question is “How?” It can be said that there is no perfect answer for the question, whereas, there are two things which I believe are very important to work on in order to answer the question.

Firstly, it is to have a few but good qualifications. I am aware that it sounds so predictable, on the other hand, my point is that I belive I should be careful not to underestimate the importance of having qualifications. At a job interview, qualifications will play a big role in representing how you can contribute to whichever company you are applying for. Without them, you would be judged as a person with no potentials to dedicate yourself to the company and a society around you, even if you are a skilled person with a strong will to utilize it for them. Hence, I appreciate how important it is to have some qualifications for myself and I have been working on this since I entered my university. I believe that being a university student gave me a privilege to have a lot of free time that I can spend on however I would like to, therefore, I consider it as a great opportunity to spend those free time on investing in myself.

Secondly, the other thing I consider is crucial to work on is to develop a communication skill. Again, this may sound predictable, however, it is one of the most important skills to enable yourself to express what kind of person you are to the others. For example, Japan, with its slow pace, seems to be transforming into a more global nation, and therefore, there are more chances for us to meet people with different nationalities and backgrounds nowadays. To be able to interact well with those who have different cultures and perspectives, I have been striving to learn about some other cultures, languages, religions, politics ,et cetera in my course. If I had proper knowledge about them, I would know how I should talk to the people in an appropriate way. Hence, the way how you communicate with people show your personality in a sense, and that is why developing a communication skill is believed to be very important.