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A Japanese mother is seen picking up her child at the kindergarten.

Gender gap: What paid holiday use reveals about parenting in Japan

By Aya Satoh Hoshina

Recently, I came across an interesting article online, which introduced a survey conducted in November 2015 by Dai-ichi Life Research Institute Inc., a research and consulting institution that’s part of the Dai-ichi Life Group, a life insurance group. It surveyed 1,400 married individuals aged 20 to 59, who work full-time and have children, on how they use and think of their paid vacations. The questionnaire obtained a total of 980 answers and the results were interesting: For females, the top reason for taking paid days off from work was “to participate in children’s school events” (62.9%), while for males, it was “to go on vacation or enjoy recreational activities with family” (57.3%). Only 29.9% of men – in comparison to women’s 62.9% – answered they’ve taken paid holidays to attend their children’s school events.

The same research also found that 35.9% of females have asked for paid holidays “to take care of children who are ill or injured,” whereas only 15.3% of males have done the same.

These results were, unfortunately, not very surprising. I’ve known for quite some time now that in Japan there exists a huge gap in how much involvement men have in child rearing compared to this of women’s. Fact is, females in Japan have contributed and continue to contribute more to bringing up kids.

Take my ex-colleague as an example — she works as a full-time contract employee while her husband is a freelance designer. They have a son in junior high school. Every time there was a school event or her son happened to fall ill, she was absent from work or had to leave early. If there was much to be done at work and she couldn’t be at home, she asked her parents or her husband’s parents to take care of her son. While I’m in no place to be judging anyone, I couldn’t help but wonder why she was almost always the one to rush to school or home to be with her child. Perhaps, being a freelancer, her husband had very irregular working hours. Still, something didn’t quite sink in.

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Children naturally feel a stronger bond with their mother than their father, it's biologically ingrained.

After all, humans come from their mother's body and suckle from their mother's body for years and during that period they develop an unbreakable bond of love.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Burning bush: Sure...that’s the reason. It isn’t because mother’s have traditionally been expected to stay at home and thus have double duties thrusted on them. It’s not because the workplace often will undervalue women, giving them lesser jobs because they are unfairly thought to be unreliable in such cases when their kids get’s the years (usually 1-2 years only) that a mother breastfeeds (if she chooses to).

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Circular reasoning here. Of course men take fewer holidays to take care of kids. They are usually the breadwinners for the family, and it is a choice of keeping a roof over their heads or going to one of the typically excessive required school functions they have here. It's a complicated issue, not so simple as "privileged men and oppressed women."

And, by the way, since I often work from home, I do most of the taking care of the kids.

Couples are teams, and that means each person takes on different roles. The roles may change over time, but it's absurd to think everything must be 50/50.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Japan certainly seems more locked in than most developed countries to what the rest of the developed world might regard as conservative notions of the male/female relationships.

The Japanese Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry did a poll in 2013 which came up with the result that 34% of Japanese women between the ages of 15 and 39 did not want to work after they got married. Only 38% resisted the idea of becoming homemakers, and the rest had no opinion either way. So that's 62% of Japanese women who were either happy to work in the home and look after the kids, or who didn't mind doing so.

So centuries of tradition, of men as the wage earners and women as the managers of the house, don't seem to have changed all that much. Perhaps that might go some way to explaining the disparity described above, along with unsympathetic attitudes by employers to the notion of men taking time off for kids' illnesses or activities.

Interestingly, the same poll also showed that only 20% of Japanese men supported the idea of their wives not going out to work. A reflection of the crushing workloads placed on Japanese 'sararimen' perhaps?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Most guys at my company seem to take off for the major school events, but maybe not parent-teacher conferences and stuff like that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Have you seen the ridiculous schedule of meetings parents (mothers) are suppose to keep up with for any school in Japan. Its literally is not possible to have children in school and attend all these stupid meetings. Another thing I noted was the "parents" meetings where during the week days, the "father days" where always Saturday,

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Unsurprising. I'm 'lucky' enough to be able to stay at home while my daughter is young (though I can't wait to get back into the real world) so I go to all of these events anyway. My husband goes whenever he can and he has a very close bond with our daughter that I'm very grateful for. To be honest though, a lot of the parental meetings are completely useless. Basically sitting around at Bamiyan with 10 other moms complaining about their husbands, talking about food and making bento and complimenting each other's children while passive aggressively talking up their own... I'd be happy enough to skip these to be honest. Miss one and you're out of the loop. Not to mention the moms that can't go for work (etc) reasons are sort of shunned from the weird mommy clique at school... it's exhausting. The system isn't designed for people who's lives don't completely revolve around their children's every move. It's hard enough to parent your child without the added pressure of having to be an all or nothing, Japanese style parent.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Burningbush seems to have forgotten the huge bonds fathers have with their children.

There are single fathers and the child bond to that parent is no less.

Secondly not all babies are breast fed, wether they are fed by the mother of farther or a wet nurse.

If breast feeding as you put it is so important, you've ignored the history of a wet nurse.The child does not form any stronger a bond to that women, or any less of a bond to the biological mother just because of breast feeding. I wonder how you might describe the bond between a child who were adopted?

Furthermore, if women were the main earners, and only came home a couple of hours a day, and the father did most of the care, feeding, cooking, hospital runs etc etc and taking into account your points, then it would be logical and in the childs interest to have a closer bond to the father, rather than just the earner.

Women in Japan take payed leave when the child is sick probably because they earn less to it appears as though they take more. So it make more financial sense for the lowest earner to take that time off, and that usually, rightly or wrongly is the mother.

For men in japan, taking time off is also calculated when it comes to bonus time.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Well, isn't that special. Men skip family events because they are the bread winners. Guess what, even if the woman made more money than the man in the family the woman would still go to the school events and the man would stay at work. All this feeble excuse highlights is that women are underpaid in Japan for doing the same work as their male colleagues. Of course companies want men and women chained to their desks because they think that makes them more productive, which of course it does not at all as study after study has shown.

 Basically sitting around at Bamiyan with 10 other moms complaining about their husbands, talking about food and making bento and complimenting each other's children while passive aggressively talking up their own... I'd be happy enough to skip these to be honest

Wow, aint that the truth. I sometimes go to my kids events and am the only male there. The mothers discussions about this and that is totally inane. They have become helicopter Mom's in the worse sense and have no lives outside of their kids. At baseball practice they are there everyday, without have the slightest understanding of the sport. They are showing the couch by being there all the time they are sincere, and sadly it works with the coaches. Japan rewards obsessive behavior unfortunately. In this case the kids do not grow up as the are smothered and the mothers' lives after the kids leave home are empty. Family life in Japan needs to change dramatically. Of course they great families here but society does not encourage them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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