Rethinking of gender roles is a prerequisite for raising Japan’s birth rate, experts say

By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

The average age of Japan’s population has been steadily climbing for quite some time now. Part of that can be credited to healthy diets and sufficient healthcare extending longevity, plus admirably little violent crime and few traffic accidents killing people who’re still in the prime of their youth. But on the other end of the equation, a big reason for Japan’s aging population is that while the old people keep getting older, the country just isn’t getting restocked with newborns. You have to go all the way back to 1974 for the last time Japan’s birthrate was above 2.0, meaning the country’s been getting older ever since.

Now, while some might argue that certain parts of Japan are already too crowded, a declining population raises serious economic and societal concerns, not the least of which is the greater burden placed on a smaller workforce to support elderly retirees. Raising the birthrate is something the Japanese government has been trying to do for many years, and a panel of experts has just released its newest batch of suggestions, including one that exhausted wives and live-in-girlfriends would no doubt be happy to see become reality: men doing more housework and spending more time taking care of children.

As part of the preparation of the Japanese government’s Outline of Declining Birthrate Countermeasures, the panel said that a key prerequisite to increasing the birth rate will be a reevaluation of the division of roles, and their associated responsibilities, based on gender, and in turn a reconsideration of work and lifestyles so as to incorporate greater participation of men in housework and childcare activities.

Until just a generation or two ago, it was still the norm for Japanese men to be the sole breadwinner for their household, with women generally transitioning to housewives after marriage, and then stay-at-home mothers. Now, thought, more Japanese women than ever before are continuing to work, by choice or out of necessity, after marriage and having children. With women having more outside-the-home responsibilities to take care of, it’s simple math that men would need to start sending more time taking care of the home and kids in order for any sort of sustainable, enjoyable family life to be possible.

However, it can’t be ignored that even though Japanese women are doing more outside-the-home work in the modern era, it’s not like Japanese men’s notoriously busy work schedules have gotten any easier for the current generation. Salarymen still pull as much overtime (including pseudo-overtime like mandatory after-hours socializing with bosses and colleagues) as they ever did, and with only so many hours in the day, the issue isn’t always as simple as a husband coming home, kicking up his feet, and relaxing in front of the TV while his wife slaves away cooking and cleaning.

Unfortunately, the panel’s recommendations don’t directly address how to free up any more time for dual-income couples, though the experts did allude to better utilization of information technology and artificial intelligence boosting the efficiency of professional childcare services, which would ostensibly lower their costs as well.

The Japanese government will be taking the recommendations into consideration in the creation of more concrete policies, which are expected to be decided upon by the coming spring. The goal is raise Japan’s birthrate to 1.8, which would still be far off from the three-kids-per-woman target one Japanese politician floated earlier this year, but a big step up from the current 1.42.

Source: NHK News Web via Jin, Japan Times

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- What do Japanese people think of their country’s low birthrate? 【Video】

-- Do young Japanese women want to be housewives?【Interview】

-- Elderly woman’s suicide highlights mounting problems for Japan’s seniors

© SoraNews24

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Countries that have traditional gender roles have the highest birth rates. This is true throughout the world and historical in Japan.

Countries that attempt to reverse of change the natural roles suffer huge declines in the birth rate as women "focus on their careers" and then decide to have kids when the 40 only to realize that nature had other plans.

-2 ( +9 / -11 )

Economic and agricultural miracles and the advances of medicine have caused a reduction in the birthrate at the same time they contributed to extended longevity. No longer are women trapped in child bearing only roles which is a good thing. The government would do better to focus on how to govern and how to support society, given that the population is lower – rather on how to increase the birthrate. It could start by reducing waste and thus taxation, leaving more to families and thus remove the pressure to have fewer children.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

To be honest I don't think the government will be able to raise the birth rate unless it guarantees women get paid for each child until they're 18. Anything else, like making jobs pay more and having men do more housework, might work but then again it might not

4 ( +5 / -1 )

In Japan a massive amount of ladies are highly educated, but can’t hope for high careers due to sexism.

Their grandparents and parents in general are also demographically from a very wealthy generation.

Not much incentive. I find a lot of young peeps here have less motivation than other places.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

By First World standards, Japan's birthrate is not that low. The twin problems are that Japan has long live expectancy and low immigration, which accelerates the ageing of society. The post-war baby boom is also having its inevitable effect now.

Gender roles in Japan need to change though, not just for the birthrate. As for as attitudes go, I don't think images like the one accompanying this article help very much. Men with the time and energy for housework, not a given, will not do it if they face ridicule.

Japan still supports housewives at the expense of full time working wives/mothers. The tax and health/pension system needs to change. As things stand, it makes sense for many women to not work even if they want to.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Sadly I think Japan is past or will soon be past the point of no return, the number of young being born is dropping like a stone & much more likely to accelerate in that direction than the other.

Combined with a massive number of old folks, it will take more than a miracle for Japan to survive the train they have gotten themselves onto!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I agree with freeing us from established social roles. But the main problem is economic. Young people are just not paid enough to enable getting married much less having kids. Increase the wages a "family living wage" or the Japanese population will reach 0 within the next century or less.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

And don't forget maternity harrassment at Japanese companies.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

That’s a terrible picture ↑. There’s nothing wrong having men do what they’re good at at home; women the same. No two people or couples are the same. I was good at taking care of the kids and i like washing dishes. I also like water so i wash the shower room. These are just examples. Others might have different tastes. I also occasionally cook. If my wife had been making more than me I don’t think I’d’ve cared much. Too late to find out.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I am tired of people referring to a government spending problem as a population problem. There is no population problem, as we are already overpopulated. The problem is government spending. This endless chatter about increasing births seems to keep people distracted from the real issue, which is wasteful government spending.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I fully support freeing men and women from stifling gender roles.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

My In laws (both from Tohoku) had nine children in Tokyo and brought them all up without any trouble and without much money. With a household to maintain and all of those children to look after working outside the home would have been out of the question for the Mother. Things were different in the 40s,50, and the 60s of course.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Only women can have children. Fact.

Wenever you give high social status to working woman model, and little to none to the brave mother who educates her 2 or more children, you kill the intent to have children for both women and men.

That is without the fact families are not financially given any advantages (less tax, reduced fees, etc).

Result is "girls just want to have fun".

If a society wants that so be it but people without the chance to get a sufficient salary shall not cry that the burden tax is heavy.

I have seen quite a few couples in my life where the lady did not care of what was doing her husband since she was earning enough money and having the time to spend her money for leisure. Husband had to work hard (Japanese company etiquette) with no time for leisure and even less time to spend with his wife...

Japanese have two generations lost (45 years) before any possibility to start leveling their population.

2.1 children per woman seems totally out of reach in Japan when you see the behavior of scores of young women shopping and hordes of men online/bar drinking/pro.sti'tute fiu.king (sorry for showing the picture).

And above that, education is closer to hell than paradise for both parents and children...(I went trough for my kids, and not even to high-school level).

And natural gender role can't be reversed for most of us ! (I don't have the patience of my wife...and she has not the strength to do the many menial jobs at home I do)

Future is gloomy to say the least.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I grew up in a family with one Scandinavian and one Jewish parent. Both cultures emphasize gender equality, and thus I am amazed at any viewpoint other than the one that both sexes should work together toward the solving of all problems, to the best of their ability. The idea that one gender is somehow inferior or inferior to the other is anathema to my upbringing, and thank goodness for that. The point is not that only women can undergo gestation, but that both sexes are inherently co-responsible for raising children. That can result in either the man or woman taking the lead role in raising their offspring, or, preferably both working together to ensure the best outcome.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

The photo of this article is inane.

I do quite some cleaning and I don't mind removing dish need to look stupid though while doing it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In our house I do more than 80% of the domestic work. Cooking, cleaning. My wife mostly does the shopping and laundry. It's the way my mother educated me and brought me up.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Burning Bush

Sorry, but that doesn't match Japan's history at all. In pre-industrial society, gender roles were less pronounced throughout most of the population, many children or not. You needed everyone helping as much as possible. Of course it was a different story for much of the rich elite, but they've always been a tiny percentage of the whole population.

With the Meiji restoration, the gender roles of the elite were being spread to other classes, and after WWII they solidified into what I guess you mean by traditional gender roles, meaning wife at home, husband at work. With this nuclear-family, fewer children became more common. However, for many this was still an ideal, a fairly large percentage of Japanese women still worked in some capacity.

It's a big mistake to think Japanese women have fewer children and work more because they're selfish and immature. Most women do want kids, but there isn't the time and money needed.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@ Burning bush totally right

Giving women the chance to eat the cake and have it, they take for most of them that chance. I would. My sister does (one kid). My aunty did (no kid).

I admire with insight more and more my mother who raised 3 kids (and made 4 ;)).

She did much more than a career job (she did work before and a bit after) and contributed to society overall by 2 fold. Fact now that I am old enough and father of 3 to assess.

Family is a virtue.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Jonathan PrinToday 07:35 am JST

@ Burning bush totally right

You and Burning Bush both seem to think that women were put on this earth specifically to have children and clean up after men. You both seem to resent women for having ambitions greater than childbearing and housework.

Family is a virtue.

Chosing to have or not to have children is not a moral issue. Mothers are admirable, but so are women who prioritize their education and professional skills.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Countries in Europe with high gender equality have low birth rates too. Finland, for example, is nicknamed the "Japan of Europe," with 20% of its population over 65. Eliminating gender roles will only make the problem worse. A better solution is to try to change the culture around having children and marriage, while also increasing benefits to those with children. If having children is viewed in terms of pros and cons, then society is doomed.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Eliminating gender roles will only make the problem worse.

A better solution is to try to change the culture around having children and marriage,

Those two things are exactly the same.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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