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'Pregnancy rotas' add to working women's woes in Japan

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By Miwa Suzuki

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Employers argue that the labor shortage makes it impossible to manage a business if employees take maternity leave whenever it suits their family?

Management need to manage, jobs are fleeting, families are forever. Labour shortage could have been avoided had practices like this been consigned to the dust bin sooner rather than expounded now.

it would appear that evil wears a tie and a name badge.

18 ( +22 / -4 )

It’s difficult because the woman likely got a year of leave when her first child was born. A replacement had to be hired to do her work while she was away. When she has a second child, that means another year away, and the temporary hiring of another worker. Hiring replacement workers is not easy, nowadays even bad help is hard to find.

In America, companies are not required to give maternity leave, most still do not. My mother stopped working when she went into labor, and was back at work a week after I was born. The same thing happened when my brother and sister were born.

Despite the lack of maternity leave in America, the birthrate is still high. It is the high cost of living and lack of living space which is causing people to have fewer children in Japan, not lack of daycare or maternity leave.

-19 ( +7 / -26 )

Cricky- excellent comment!

So on one hand Japan is screaming for more children with a LDP politician telling newlyweds they should have 3 or more kids.

On the other hand, you have pregnancy quotas. Personally, I think this country is doomed. There. I said it.

8 ( +17 / -9 )

Yeah...you said it!

And I agree.

Shame isn't it.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Hate to play the devil's advocate, but the two industries here (childcare and nursing) are both areas where women have no trouble finding jobs, even after quitting to take care of a child, due to labor shortages. Of course it sucks that Sayako had to quit to have her baby, but she should be thankful that she was able to bounce right back into another job like that. Other industries, quitting would have meant the end of her working life.

So, while the idea of pregnancy rotas is disgusting (especially knowing how childbirth is not just a one shot thing in most cases); the fact it happens in those industries isnt really so bad i guess. However, i am sure this happens in other industries too... And that is more of a problem

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Selfish and sad. No way would I apologize to anyone for welcoming in a child I wanted. Idiots.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Aly Rustom

Theres a difference between being actually doomed and unhappy ex pats who kinda want it doomed cause “they said so”.

Japan doesn’t “have quotas” for babies, but this is an example of power harassment that can happen and be very hard for some people to navigate. Good that it gets brought to light.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

"How dare you break the rules without asking?" the boss had said

Just another Japanese bully employer! Where I come from, employers are grateful they have staff, but in Japan, employees 'must' be grateful to their boss for having a job.

11 ( +15 / -4 )

"How dare you break the rules without asking?"

I would have punched him in the face without a moments hesitation! That’s the only way to “discipline” an arrogant and completely self centred idiot such as this! I take my hat off to the husband for his restraint. If they treat their own countrymen with such detached emotion and complete disregard I can’t imagine their disdain for foreigners! You kind of get an understanding of why the countries they invaded and the people they affected there have little affection for them...makes you think somewhat.

6 ( +12 / -6 )

"When I asked the boss to send me to a professional program as a step towards a future promotion, her reaction was: 'You took maternity leave and worked shorter hours. How many more favors do you want'?"

I can't help but think the education system here is, in part, responsible for teaching people from a young age to 'uphold their part in the chain'. Children here are taught not to necessarily 'care' or 'think' for their counterparts, but just make sure that they hold up their own part in the group-think chain. End result: a bunch of robots that are unable to summon compassion and understanding for people on an individual basis. They can only follow the rules, even when those 'rules' are vague, unwritten and damaging.

This is not teamwork in the true sense of the word. It's forced cooperation. Many Japanese just need to learn to buck the systems that are hurting them so much, and start looking out for each other.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

Policies like this are probably at the pinnacle of what unfairness, sexism and discrimination means.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

How dare you break the rules without asking?" the boss had said What a nonsense response to give to a staff member who has just shared great news

I didn't know breaking the rules required permission?

Id be ringing my wife's manager very late, to let him know I'm feeling amorous would it be OK to...you know. Is it our turn on the rota?

what an absolutely stupid way to forge a successful team of workers. Can't get staff, pay more. Improve working conditions. Not this fall back on absolute control of every aspect of their lives.

I dispare at the quality of supposed management, the staff in general are great know their jobs, give 100%. Managing them should be a breeze, no need to complicate this just to justify your own incompetence.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Been living here for 37 years now. I have never heard a parent say " I have to drop the kids off at the sitter." or " I have to drop the kids off at moms." Always wondering why families don't get more involved in helping each other.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Pregnancies, Childbirth and day-care are some areas that Japan really needs to change some rules and offer more 'financial' support. With a recent newborn I have found out how heavy it is even if you help each other, I cant even imagine how single mothers or fathers can cope, its impossible.

Japan needs to do more to support parents who want to have kids and new parents, in the end, they are also helping against the declining birthrate.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

When right and the left scream opposing orders neither will win.

Very sad to see just a proud nation go down torn by inner confusion.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is the same as people leaving their paid holiday unused because taking time off creates an extra burden for their co-workers. The cause is businesses and organizations like daycares being poorly managed and poorly run.

Another cause here is that any woman who leaves a daycare is potentially leaving a seishain position, but will face re-employment as a temporary worker on much worse conditions if she just quits to have children. Many Japanese people don't have the option of telling their boss to stick it and then getting re-employed on equal conditions elsewhere. Re-employment often means a permanent step down.

Many daycares are entirely staffed by women, so some of this maternity harassment will be entirely woman on woman. Japan is a paternalistic society, but that doesn't mean all the discrimination and harassment is coming from men.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I am on a small team in a large company with 2 JP guys and 1 JP woman. Over the past 4 years, she first took 1 year off to give birth to her first child. My boss had said he would hire someone part time to handle her cases, but in the end just divided her work between me and the other guy. She then came back for about 1 year and then suddenly entered sick leave for the past 5 months, and then will enter maternity leave directly. Her cases were again divided between us. The way the company handled it is sure to engender animosity because none of the members of the team that got her extra work were given any pay raise or recognition at all.

Having a stay at home wife with 3 kids, I do feel that I got the short end of the stick and am subsidizing her life choices. To tell you the truth I would prefer a system where the new mother was free to work even part time and take the baby to our in-house nursery.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

My advice to the Japanese facing these struggles to have children. As long as the husband has a decent and stable job, go ahead and have the child anyway. Parenting will never be easy. But it is so worth it. You get so much joy out of it, a great family support system as the children grow to adults and much more. There are so many long term benefits to offset the short term pain. That's what we did.

Dad of 6

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Interesting. Daycare positions are hard to fill. In order to fill them you ... bully your employees to quit? If I ran a daycare, I'd be spending less time berating my employees for getting pregnant and more time figuring out how to afford the most attractive workplace in Japan to support my scarce pool of potential candidates. These managers are attacking a problem from the wrong end. And they will fail.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@thepersoniamnow

Theres a difference between being actually doomed and unhappy ex pats who kinda want it doomed cause “they said so”.

Kinda unfair to assume we are all "unhappy" and want Japan to fail, don't ya think?

I am very happy living in Japan. I'd have far more complaints if I lived back in the UK.

I pay my taxes here. I think I've earned a voice. (Even though it will never be listened to.)

I think we can all see the problems that lay ahead for Japan if they don't fix this by either having more kids or adjusting their immigration policies.

Stick your head in the sand all you want. The problem will still be there when you look up.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

As this has become a growing issue, companies need to put these unwritten rules into their guidelines. Many people have a plan as they get older to have a family and the ones who plan to have kids should be able to choose the company that fits their interests. I decide my life's choices, not my employer.

Been living here for 37 years now. I have never heard a parent say " I have to drop the kids off at the sitter." or " I have to drop the kids off at moms." Always wondering why families don't get more involved in helping each other.

Exactly! I was at my grandmother's house often growing up as my parents worked or went out. Now my wife hesitates to ask her parents to babysit so we can see a movie. Those who live their parents though can do it but that means 2 more living under your roof.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Reckless, I see your point about getting the short end of the stick, because I've been there as a single woman with no family -- I've even had a boss (woman) on a holiday pass something off to me and say "OK, you do this thing that you don't have the right resources to do and is really my responsibility. I'm going to go spend time with my family." But I don't think the solution is to get women who want or have children out of the workplace (to be clear -- I don't think you're actually saying to go that far). The world is looking to Japan to figure out how to handle declining birthrates (since it's pretty much an issue in all developed countries). Japan should perhaps look to some countries that have managed to figure out how to have mothers AND fathers actively engaged in both the workforce AND their families. It's probably not cheap or easy -- the worthwhile things rarely are.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@since1981 I have been here a year shy of you and we (my wife is Japanese) had three kids in that time. We put all our kids a very grassroots daycare and we lucky enough to meet two very like-minded Japanese families at the 'park debut'. All have three kids, all nine kids are still friends and we did help each other out at times (and still do). It very much depends on the ideas of obligations and responsibility held by the families. You know that it is never as simple as asking for most families here. I would say though that grandparents offer there time less that I would have expected.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

To play devils avocate...having children in japan is very expensive, and time consuming. If the parents fully understand that after paying everything, cram school, University, daycare, home stays, fashion clothing, Keitai, healthcare etc...if they fully except, then having another child is fine. If you are ready for the responsibility, quit your job. Find a new one later.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

This story isn't just an issue in Japan, but in other countries as well.

Yes, women have the right to choose. But it can create serious headaches at work.

Back home, I've seen women take long periods of time off to give birth and look after their babies. That's great, but their job has to get filled by somebody.

Even companies that have a large staff will encounter problems if their skills are specialized. Do they hire a consultant or train other staff? This costs money and not all companies are in a position where they can afford the extra expense.

And if other staff are used to fill in, this puts stress on them to do not only their jobs, but do the extra work too over lengthy periods of time. What about their rights?

This is the reality. Some companies can't just bend over backwards to meet these expectations for a number of reasons. Knee-jerk accusations of incompetence and sexism might be true in some cases, but stereotyping is stupid.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

Talk about harassment in the workplace. In a country with a negative birhtrate, too little access to daycare, and too few day care staff, this is ridiculous. Does this woman think she can legislate biology?

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/04/japans-demographic-time-bomb-can-a-calendar-help-otaris-single-men-find-love

1 ( +2 / -1 )

In Canada, just a random job search in my city turned up over 500 jobs available for a maternity leave contract. This is a normal thing. Gives someone a chance to improve their resume and they know the job is vacated after 9 months. That's a nice gig.

Oh Japan, why do you have to punish your own mothers? How or why the boss is privy to their private family matters is another bafflement. None of the their business

6 ( +6 / -0 )

If they treat their own countrymen with such detached emotion and complete disregard I can’t imagine their disdain for foreigners!

Yes, especially those foreigners from countries that the Japanese have traditionally looked down on and consider "inferior". There is a massive difference in the license given to Western foreigners in japan compared to non-Western ones.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Aly Rustom

Theres a difference between being actually doomed and unhappy ex pats who kinda want it doomed cause “they said so”.

Kinda unfair to assume we are all "unhappy" and want Japan to fail, don't ya think?

Exactly! Well said.

I am very happy living in Japan. I'd have far more complaints if I lived back in the UK.

thepersoniamnow - You know what they say about making ASSUmptions..

What makes you think that I am unhappy here? Because I'm not raising my hands and screaming banzai at the top of my voice?? Because I acknowledge Japan's problems instead of hiding from them?

who kinda want it doomed cause “they said so”.

The STUPIDEST part of the post- my 2 year old son is Japanese. My daughter due to be born next month is Japanese. Anyone who thinks that someone in my position would WANT Japan to be doomed is a fool. What happens in Japan affects my children.

I pay my taxes here. I think I've earned a voice. (Even though it will never be listened to.)

Exactly as do I.

I think we can all see the problems that lay ahead for Japan if they don't fix this by either having more kids or adjusting their immigration policies.

Very well said.

Stick your head in the sand all you want. The problem will still be there when you look up.

Exactly. Screaming at everyone who points out the problems of this country is EXACTLY what got us here in the first place. Your attitude does not help. Hiding a problem doesn't make it go away. You have to face it.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Always wondering why families don't get more involved in helping each other.

Today is actually my wife's first day back to work. The in-laws live a couple of blocks away, so they look after our kid while we're at work.

I think its not so common, but I'm sure others do the same. Its also worth pointing out different social norms. For example, there seems to be a stigma attached to babysitters, as if they are sketchy.

Also, a lot of people come to the Tokyo area after graduation, making it rather impractical, if not impossible for extended families to look after youngsters.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

maybeperhapsyes

I didnt assume anything for “all of you” I simply brought up the flip side of the coin. My Aussie neighbor has enjoyed 4 years of maternity leave here that she says she wouldnt have gotten back at home.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

There is a massive difference in the license given to Western foreigners in japan compared to non-Western ones.

Yet, many Asian foreigners in Japan are able to blend in a lot better than many Western foreigners. When you stick out like a sore thumb, you know never to expect just a 'normal' day when you are not stared at or have comments whispered about you. The 'license' given to foreigners is nothing to envy. It barely makes up for the any disadvantages foreigners face daily.

Pros and cons...

1 ( +3 / -2 )

wonder why there is a baby shortage in this archaic society. hmmmmm

5 ( +5 / -0 )

There is a massive difference in the license given to Western foreigners in japan compared to non-Western ones.

Yet, many Asian foreigners in Japan are able to blend in a lot better than many Western foreigners. When you stick out like a sore thumb, you know never to expect just a 'normal' day when you are not stared at or have comments whispered about you. The 'license' given to foreigners is nothing to envy. It barely makes up for the any disadvantages foreigners face daily.

Pros and cons...

AgentX- VERY well said!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The problem is... there is soo many old timers and/or people with a ancient way of thinking in most Japanese companies (and in many non-Japanese companies too).

But the most concerning problem, is the lack of interest and help from colleagues of both genders.

I was actively involved in ways to improve and facilitate the working environment specially for women, at my former job, but the real lack of commitment and interest for my workplace colleagues made any effort null.... At the end I was seen like I used the workplace Seminars, workshops and talks as ways to skip out of work.

Many of my friends (women) either had to find another job (2 people) or had to simply quit (like 5 of them), it really made me feel useless.

So, basically I am saying, people in the workplace has to speak up and be involved...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

So, basically I am saying, people in the workplace has to speak up and be involved...

As you well know, that's the first step that never gets taken in Japan. It's an unfortunate paralysis.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I am sorry but this so called boss needs to be educated, and that is you can't get pregnant on a rota, unfortunately nature does what it want when it wants. This lady should not be apologising for him, it should be a happy occasion and to be celebrated, good luck to her, my late wife found it difficult for her to conceive, and we think it was due to a lot of pressure (just from life in general) the day that she did conceive was when she was relaxed on holiday,

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I feel so bad for these women because my work lets us go through maternity leave & child care leave for max of 2 yrs (if you could not find a daycare for your child right away) complete pay check for the first 6 months.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@AgentX

As you well know, that's the first step that never gets taken in Japan. It's an unfortunate paralysis.

Sadly yes.... I was sincerely shocked when a Kohai (like 5 years younger than me), made a friend and colleague of mine to quit the company, because "It is a man's job... and my wife should be at home"...

I almost punch him, when I heard this if it not were for my friend herself that stopped me (it was during a nomikai).

The other shocking thing was that she oblige to what he was saying....

Not surprisingly, I was not invited to the wedding and she was banned to contact me by any means....

3 ( +4 / -1 )

All kinds of comments here about how moms on childcare leave cause issues but not a single person has suggested the dads also take some time off to balance the issues. If any of you dads took time off to stay home while your wife worked, you might be a little less harsh on the moms.

I’m also having a good laugh at a guy with a stay at home wife complaining about subsidizing a mom’s choice to work. Have you looked at how YOU benefit off the backs of single moms and dual income families? More so those without kids? Subsidies all over the place for those with a wife at home, kids or not.

As for how these women should be “grateful” they can find a job after quitting, many were pushed out of work which is why they quit. They get paid peanuts. How about you be grateful for the services they offer and the taxes they pay? These are educated women getting screwed by society for having kids.

I always laugh when western men tell me how sexist and chauvinist the local men are. Look in the mirror some of you. Some of you are no better. In fact, some of you are worse.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

@tmarie

slow clap

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@sangetsu03

Despite the lack of maternity leave in America, the birthrate is still high

The birth rate in the US is at a 30-year low.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-us-birth-rate-30-year-low-20180516-story.html

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

WTF? Pregnancy rotas? They have got to be joking? These employers are more like a fascist state than companies... what next?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

My wife is a Japanese public school teacher. She was asked by her vice-principal not to have a baby for at least 2 years because of the responsibilities that they were giving to her. So, it definitely happens.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

"against the law but inevitable" : the law is useless and meaningless then.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

these stories are becoming more unbelievable every day

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What is very funny to open-minded people is that Japanese can see that a situation is bad, will complain in an hidden way (to family, very good friends...) But will never never never tell what they think to stop the wrongdoing, and of course even less take action to act as someone responsible and kill the beast they are facing.

I learned before that to be respected you needed to be respectful first. You learn in Japan not to be respectful to be respected.

My wife also confirmed to me she would never invite or take kids to a baby sitter. I told it happened to me with rather good experience but as a Japanese, she would become deaf.

A new life is a nature's gift, not a professional burden, don't forget.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I had never heard of the quotas but my I suppose I shouldn't be as shocked as I am. This is Japan.

There are a couple of apologist posts above, but I ask them what about all the other developed countries that have these rules but still manage to get by without complaining?

JJapan just builds it's economy around asumptions that all employees will be there all the time. No holidays and restrictions on maternity.

The argument is always the same that co-workers will have to do extra work. The only one winning there is the owner of the company who gets more work and profit from his workers.

I see the abuse of a culture in Japan to maintain the wealth of the owners. I'm not a Marxist but it is a perfect example of capitalist exploitation, which is enforced and governed by the exploited themselves.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If she had stayed, "I think I'd have said 'I'm sorry'" instead of celebrating the birth of the baby.

Until Japanese people grow a pair and stop thinking/acting like that, they will continue to have the pi$$ taken out of them at work.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"If she had stayed, "I think I'd have said 'I'm sorry'" instead of celebrating the birth of the baby."

Good on this woman, and shame on society for allowing this rota crap. Abe vowed to get more daycares open and more people working in them, as well as vowing to get more women working in general, and also to increase the birthrate. He has failed in ALL of them, and all his other vows for that matter, because he did the usual lip-service promises, then patted himself on the back and left it up to everyone else to decide what to do and how to do it. Instead of giving breaks to salaried workers, which would in turn give time for mothers to have a break from child-rearing and work or spend money, he put a "cap" of 100 hours overtime a month! Instead of a tax break for families to allow them more money and motivation to have more children, he gave it to corporations, asking them politely to open up their pockets and let it "trickle down" to help employees spend more. Yeah, right. Instead of getting more daycares he gave schools to cronies at discounted prices for land, and instead of allowing women to work more his cabinet and others in the LDP are demanding women stay home and have more babies.

I celebrate this woman for her strength and her courage, and am embarrassed by both the politics of this nation that simply shrugged and allow bosses to do this while demanding she have the kid to begin with. As for the boss and the school, they should be named and shamed as well, and parents pull their kids out if they can, noting that without children the place would not exist.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

wow... just when you think people can't be any crappier to each other... let's force women to schedule biology...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

And they didn't even provide a box of Condoms when telling her... well the husband should go around and ask for compensation.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan is in weird situation.

LDP says a family should have at least three children.

While businesses are running these rota system.

Hell even CHINA has abolished one child policy.

Japan is already facing birth decline crisis with children committing suicides.

At this rate, the same "nationalist" LDP under the influence of business elite will be forced to introduce mass migration into Japan to compensate for labour force.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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