Full-time housewives in strong position to enter job market - if they want to


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

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I live in Japan, am married and have kids. Def need more daycare slots. I don't want to have to take my kids to two different daycare centers, because no place had 2 open slots. Also, this place needs dishwashers(more environmental than hand washing) and dryers. Without those two things, housework takes up an unreasonable amount of time

3 ( +5 / -2 )

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.

Once again Tokyo-centric writing. There is more to Japan than just Tokyo and "housewives" looking for work in other places would have to work in snacks or bars to get paid like that down here.

Average pay is more like 680 yen to 700 yen per hour for PT workers, hardly enough to justify even taking a job for many.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

In addition to lack of daycare centers, pay is low, and the tax rate goes through the roof if you are not the primary wage earner. so I don't see the housewives turning out in droves anytime soon.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

But many hesitate – needlessly, the magazine says – fearing their lack of work experience disqualifies them in advance. Jose

The problem is, Japan doesn't have a mid-career / middle-aged job market. Companies aren't interested in training any other group but their "blank canvas" university graduates, priming them for 40+ years of corporate brainwashing & moulding.

Women in Japan don't want to go back to work because they're discriminated against from the beginning (have stories till the sun goes down), meaning joke-worthy pay rates & being largely disrespected by oyaji managers. I'm sure, deep down, there are a large percentage of married women - kids or no kids - who would love to go back to work. Corporate Japanese culture, with its 50s era ideals, just isn't designed to accomodate anything other than the old boys' club.

Just last Sunday, my g/f was asked to attend the company's annual day trip down south. There were 50 men & 3 women (restricted to OL positions, of course). She was ordered by her boss to pour teas & beers for all the oyajis & to keep an eye on their drinks. She app, with the other women, had to start all their meals (by lighting the stoves - 30+ of them). This is an extremely bright woman with a university degree who's about to enter her 30s. Comes home in tears.

This place makes me sick at times.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

What all these articles omit is the fact that these women WANT low paying jobs do they continue to get health care and pension paid for in part by taxpayers. These women (most anyway) don't want FT jobs or careers. They want hobby jobs. They have zero interest in making a living wage and paying taxes. They want casual and "fun" jobs. Childcare is hard. They don't want hard.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Suppose you’ve been active on the PTA.

No, no, no, these women are the worst. They're either all "my way or no way," or supremely skilled at delegating all the stuff they don't want to do to others.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Getting the ladies that lunch back into the workforce? Good luck with that!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

They want hobby jobs.

Lol.Might borrow that from you if I may!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

is the fact that these women WANT low paying jobs do they continue to get health care and pension paid for in part by taxpayers. These women (most anyway) don't want FT jobs or careers. They want hobby jobs. They have zero interest in making a living wage and paying taxes. They want casual and "fun" jobs. Childcare is hard. They don't want hard.

Spoken like a true veteran of experience. I would strongly beg to differ with you about many housewives down here, plenty want a decent wage to assist in raising their children, many want to provide for their families, and many are and do work very hard, to just break even.

Please stop overly generalizing, not ALL these women are in it for what you are assuming here.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

I think our English teachers' observations are slanted by the fact that they teach Housewife English. The 'housewives' they see and talk to on a daily basis are those with (1) time on their hands (2) enough spare cash to spend on hobbies and socialising. From that they make the false assumption that all housewives are the same - affluent and bored. They are not. The ones who are struggling to raise kids/care for elderly parents on a single income and those who have found the low-paying part time job that fits in time-wise with all their other obligations and commitments have neither the time nor the money to indulge themselves with English lessons, and remain essentially invisible to the English teachers.

13 ( +16 / -3 )

Someone paid 1000 yen an hour (in Tokyo) is "in a strong position"?!?!

8 ( +8 / -0 )

If more companies had day care centers at their location it would help. Also their need to be more flexible/ or part time hours for positions requiring betters skill (than just the usual service jobs). Corporations dictate too much in Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Probably they see how miserable their husbands are working in the JP slave shop with for example, unpaid overtime, pressure to work late, demeaning tasks, etc. and decide it is not worth the hassle.

Anecdote in point, my sister in law works part time and my wife said something like it is tough because she has to work 12 hours a day on certain days. Apparently the old bait and switch is alive and well, get the women to start with guaranteed set hours to get home for the kids then start escalating with bits of overtime, and playing the guilt factor.

Japanese women are smart as heck not to enter this crap. Ghosh bless the working slave.

5 ( +5 / -0 )


I know lots of great working mums, and have the pleasure of collaborating with many.

I also know first-hand that the 'burbs are full of ladies that lunch, who p*** the hell out of the working mums with their school gate gossip.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

If these "teaching housewives" comments are directed at me (as clearly they are), I haven't taught housewives in over 15 years. My comments are based on the conversations I have with the SAHMs in my neighbourhood and the wives on my coworkers and my husband's coworkers. Indeed, not ALL are like these women but I'm willing to bet the majority are. There's a reason why Abe has only discussed cutting spouse benefits rather than going through with it. He knows damn well that would be the end of him. Easier to turn the nuclear power plants back on, change article nine than it is to get rid of the spouse benefits.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Oh please, won't someone think of the hula dance teachers and bon-bon manufacturers!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

If these woman started working, even in part-time roles, the Japanese economy would benefit. Japan suffers a gap in GDP due to the under utilisation of women. But the fact is that many of these women are not interested in working at all, they are lazy. If Abe really wants to jump start the economy he should tax layabout wives to recover the loss the economy suffers by them staying home watching TV and eating bonbons.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

This is all a sick joke, a great many women start off working when young & single, for many the goal is to get married so they can STOP working, they KNOW working in a typical J-office is a nightmare for women, not very many would want to go back to THAT HELL later in life after they succeeded in escaping from j-company work!!

The crappy wages on offer for crappy part time work also isn't going to make sense for those with kids as the daycare costs make working for a tiny winy few extra yen if they are lucky not worth it.

Its all seriously messed up, for BOTH men & women, sadly I don't see much if any progress on the horizon

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Tessa...and the Yoga teachers. They would be out of work too.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

And the inordinate amount of piano teachers. The amount of kids I teach whose mothers teach piano is mind boggling.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

A smart policy of Abe Shinzo to give Japanese woman,either house wives or not,strong support to jobs market as a priority,its much better than easing foreign work force to fill the gap in jobs market.Even if there is a need to foreign workers,it it be selective-like Canada and Australia-and well controlled.No open doors for migrants.Japanese house wives have lots of options every where.There might be difficulties because of lack of experience,but still not that big deal if they want.Am sure they can over come all challenges.If some shows some unpleasant situations face them in work place,this is every where around the world,not just Japan,but still the massive majority are ok.Smart policy from smart Abe Shinzo.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The whole system is set up to benefit the status quo, men who'd rather be with their colleagues than bother with their families and women who want children and a full time job. Both groups challenging this, men wanting a family life and women wanting a career and family get very little support from, and in some cases are actively opposed by, workaholic men and mothers who don't work. Workplaces and working culture, and childcare and schools are set up in keeping with the status quo. So men can't take time off or simply just go home on time to be with their families. They are viewed as weak or under the thumb. Working women are faced with school and childcare facilities that schedule events and duties during working hours, shut the school down when a few classmates are sick (unthinkable in the West), and have odd half-days here and there where yep, the after-school club is not available. This would all be fine, except that more and more men don't have jobs that will repay their dedication with employment for life, and more and more women don't have a husband with a good wage and shakai hoken that will keep them as a dependent. Some mothers don't have a husband at all. The status quo is not an option for this growing number of people. So this middle-class women's magazine might think its great that a 45 year old housewife can get a part-time job for say 50,000 yen a month from the shufuu agency that might pay for her university age daughter's mobile phone and train pass, but that would be completely insufficient for many people out there. They face a far harsher economic reality.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Overall they need to strengthen the labor movement here for a better quality of life. They can do things much more efficiently in less time with no drop in GDP...ughhh.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In the States my Japanese wife has a job that allows her to feel good about herself. She'd be lucky to get her part-time job at Uniqlo back if we returned to Japan.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

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