Josei Seven (March 24) celebrates “housewife power.”
It’s not what you think. (Or maybe it is.) The relatively high number of young Japanese women who, educated and liberated, actually want to be housewives and chafe under the economic necessity of holding an outside job has often surprised Japanese and foreign feminists, who tend to regard full-time housewifery as synonymous with drudgery and inferior status for women. The “job” of raising children and making a house a home is a dignified undertaking, say housewives; “liberation” should consist in acknowledging it as such rather than in marginalizing it.
Be that as it may, the full-time housewife faces a problem. The kids grow up and no longer need her. There’s still the house to take care of, but its demands are few. What then? Find a job? As what? You’ve been at home for 25 years while the world has moved on. What can you do?
A lot, says Josei Seven – and more and more as time passes. Circumstances have never been more favorable.
Two in particular predominate – the shrinking workforce, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Olympic preparations, of course, require workers, as will a long-hoped-for economic revival, if it materializes. Japan’s aging and shrinking population presents a clear challenge – where are the workers to come from? Between 2001 and 2015, labor ministry statistics show, the nation’s workforce declined by 1.5 million; the projected drop by 2025 is another 3 million.
Enter – you guessed it – housewives en masse. Between 2012 and 2016, says Josei Seven, citing research by recruiting agency Shufu Job Search, job openings favorable to housewives increased 15.5-fold – far ahead of a concurrent 8.6-fold increase in applicants. It’s never been easier for a housewife in her 40s or 50s to find work, if she wants it.
But many hesitate – needlessly, the magazine says – fearing their lack of work experience disqualifies them in advance. Josei Seven’s point is that housewives are experienced – more experienced than they know. The fact that the work they do is not classed as paid employment does not doom it to irrelevance, even on the job market – particularly a job market opening up in ways Japan’s seems to be doing.
It’s mostly part-time work, true. That’s a drawback in terms of pay and benefits, but a potential plus in terms of working hours, often fewer and more flexible than for full-time staff. The housewives discussed here aren’t so much interested in building corporate careers for themselves as in augmenting family income and taking on a challenge.
So what qualifications has a housewife developed over the years? Raising children is itself, as anyone who has done it knows, one challenge after another. You develop patience, you learn to cope with the unexpected, you think on your feet and solve problems you hadn’t known existed a moment before they arose. In another context, these are classic business skills.
Suppose you’ve been active on the PTA. You deal with a variety of people – kids, other parents, teachers, school administrators. You hone your communication and negotiating skills. It’s the sort of thing you might hesitate to enter on a curriculum vita (even many part-time jobs nowadays require CVs). Don’t. Enter it by all means – as clearly as concisely as you can, clarity and concision themselves being job assets.
What kind of jobs are we looking at? A sample list, courtesy of Shufu Job Search, includes telemarketing, customer relations, door-to-door sales, professional house cleaning, juku teaching and general office work, pay ranging from 980 to 1200 yen an hour.
More and more companies, Josei Seven says, are learning to appreciate housewives as staffers, and do their best to arrange flexible working hours that permit a woman a dual home-workplace role.© Japan Today