The current generation of young adults in Japan is really the first for which both husband and wife working outside the home is the norm, coming after several decades in which the man was expected to be the sole breadwinner and the woman to take care of pretty much everything at home. But as women contribute more to the family’s earnings, the question then becomes whether men are proportionately increasing their housework efforts.
That’s the issue behind a recent survey from Japanese women’s interest and family life internet portal Teinei Tsuhan, which asked 250 working married women and 250 working men (all aged 20-39) about the division of labor in their families. Things got off to an encouraging start, with guys seeming to accept the need to share the burden, as 72.8 percent of the surveyed husbands said that they and their wives do an equal amount of housework, and even more, 76.8 percent, said they evenly share childcare duties.
However, responses painted a very different picture when women were asked for their take on the situation. The overwhelming majority, 90.9 percent, said that they do more housework than their husbands. Things were only slightly better when it came to taking care of the kids, with 90.4 percent of women saying their husbands don’t do as much for the little ones as they do.
When asked what tasks specifically they got saddled with a heavy load for, women’s top three responses were:
Meal preparation (64 percent of respondents)
Putting away clothing and household items (40.8 percent)
- Washing bedsheets/airing out blankets (28 percent)
Drying kids’ hair and getting them dressed again after baths (43.6 percent)
Cutting kids’ finger/toenails (37.6 percent)
- Making sure kids have everything they need in their school bags in the morning (36.4 percent)
One could make the argument that a perfect 50-50 split of household duties is impossible. Likewise, it wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate to say that societal pressures in Japan place a heavier responsibility on men to be economic providers, and pursuing that goal in Japanese workplaces often means doing so much overtime that there aren’t enough minutes left in the day, or energy in the body, for significant cooking or cleaning. Still, with 66.4 percent of the survey’s respondents saying that they’ve fought with their spouse over who is or isn’t doing enough to help around the house, it looks like the current split is making a lot of couples unhappy, and could do with some rebalancing.
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