As Japan’s voluntary policy of jishuku, or self-restraint, continues, more and more people are working from home, and families are spending more time together than ever before. Since many people often had to work long hours and weren’t able to leave the office until late at night before the outbreak, this new arrangement could be either completely wonderful or surprisingly unpleasant for them and their families.
CyberOwl, owned by financial information site MoneyKai, wanted to know how families’ lives were being affected by the stay-at-home recommendations, so they asked 525 married women from across the nation in an online survey in April.
Fortunately, the majority of the respondents were glad to have their husbands home. Of the 346 women who said that they were able to spend more time with their husbands, 67 percent said that they’re happy about it. When asked the reason why, the most common response was that it was because they have more free time together (38 percent), while 31 percent were happy to have extra help around the house and with the children. Those two answers made up almost 70 percent of the responses.
▼ 19 percent answered that they’re happy because they can eat meals together, while 10 percent said that it’s because they became closer. Two percent marked “Other”.
However, 33 percent of women did say that they were unhappy spending so much time with their husbands. The majority of those said that it was because they felt stressed because they weren’t getting enough time to themselves or to relax (58 percent). 23 percent were unhappy because they felt their work load increased, or they weren’t getting help around the house. 12 percent were worried about money and the future.
Seven percent of the unhappy women selected “Other”. One of those responses was, “I have to face parts of his personality that I used to ignore.” Perhaps couples who hadn’t been able to spend as much time together before are learning who their spouses are for the first time, and that can take some adjustment.
Next, the 346 women who said they’re spending more time with their husbands were asked if how much their husbands are helping around the house has changed since quarantining at home. An impressive 81 percent of women said their husbands are helping out at home. Of those, 233 women said their husbands have always helped out at home, and about half of that number said that their husbands are helping more now than before. 48 women said that their husbands didn’t used to share the household responsibilities, but do now.
In contrast, about 20 percent of the respondents said their husbands have never helped around the house and still don’t, despite spending more time at home. Among those numbers, about half of those women were in their forties or older, which indicates that older men are less inclined to help with housework than younger men.
But the good news is that many respondents feel like they’ve gotten closer to their husbands since they’ve been staying home. Though about 61 percent of said their relationships with their husbands haven’t changed, about 30 percent said they have gotten closer or much closer with their husbands. Sadly, 29 respondents did say that their relationships got worse, and one said it’s gotten a lot worse; perhaps that’s because they didn’t have time to get to know each other before and are having a hard time getting along now. Hopefully these women are not in violent situations and the differences can be safely reconciled.
▼ From top to bottom: much closer, closer, no change, worse, and much worse
Finally, the women were asked how their financial situation has changed as a result of the stay-at-home recommendations. About 46 percent of the respondents said their household income has decreased. The majority of respondents said that their monthly income decreased by between 1 and 100,000 yen (about US$929). Some respondents’ incomes lowered by as much as 510,000 yen or more, so the pandemic appears to have had a serious affect on many families’ financial situations.
Participants were then asked if their family’s monthly expenditures have changed, and more than half of the respondents said yes. The majority said they’re spending more on food. That’s because of rising food costs and the fact that they’re cooking at home more as opposed to eating out as a family or individually, with lunch at the school cafeteria or restaurants near the office no longer an option. Another source of increased supermarket spending was husbands’ drinking at home instead of in bars with coworkers, and some also said their families are ordering more food for delivery.
▼ Many also said that the rising cost of their utilities was a major factor in increasing their expenses (from top to bottom: cost of food, utilities, entertainment, clothing, daily items, cellphone bills, insurance, and other).
However, in some cases their expenses have decreased. For example, they no longer have to pay for their kids’ after-school activities and don’t need to spend as much on clothes and beauty items. Plus, they are saving money overall by not going drinking parties, which are common for many Japanese companies and generally cost more than drinking at home.
Still, the added costs of living are rising, and with their household salaries taking a hit, many women are worried about their finances. Out of the 525 respondents. 87.1 percent that they are concerned about their families’ financial future. Though the government has disbursed some aid to families, if this situation goes on much longer, many could be facing dire economic circumstances.
So though the coronavirus has had a positive impact on some families because they get to spend more time together, many are worried about the future and whether they’ll be able to survive once the pandemic is over. Hopefully we can find a way to end the disease, or open up safely, so that people can begin to work again, while at the same time allowing workers the ability to continue spending time with their families.
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