Japan modernizing workplace conditions to lure mothers back

By Noriko Inoue

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Companies are not interested in modernization, particularly to accommodate women in the workforce, who typically make less than 60% of the salary of their male counterparts - it is just that with near full-employment, push has come to shove and women are being brought into the workforce to keep wages from increasing. As long as salaried men are expected to put in at least a week's worth of uncompensated overtime hours for every month worked, it will be (unsurprisingly) impossible: 1) to create a level playing field so that women can compete equally in the workplace and still have a family; 2) for men to take part in weekday child-rearing, household, recreational, or social activities; 3) for women to take part in weekday recreational, or social activities; and 4) to increase the birthrate - all of which have been stated as goals by the government at one point or another - strongly indicating that they are nothing but window-dressing. There is no good reason that, unlike the majority of countries in the world, Japanese workers need to be compelled to prove their loyalty via overtime instead of their competence by finishing on time, at the cost of having no life other than work - except that the country is run by Keidanren on behalf of Japan, Inc, and citizens are viewed by their government and employers as disposable parts in an economic machine. It is exactly these reasons that women started voting with their feet and leaving the workforce 20 years ago. Little has changed in the intervening years - the workplace is still typically a bastion of paternalism and parochialism.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Nice photo of a happy family. It's a shame they have no hope of getting their child into daycare so mum can return to work though.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

I regret to say that this is wishful thinking and the examples are complete outliers.

Show me companies with in-house daycare / childcare facilities or companies sponsoring / paying for childcare / after school care, and then we can talk.

Oh, and let's see how any of these female workers do in career progression.

Oyaji Japan would rather commit an honorable death than actually treat women as professional equals.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

My company is in pharma and rather family friendly with daycare at one of our facilities. It is rather easy to use flex time. But we still suffer from seniority promotion (nenkou jouretsu), and I am close to being brain dead. Never enjoyed working in Japan except before marriage as an English teacher. Had nearly 200 people at my farewell party.

My wife has 5 years of college and graduate school however she absolutely refused to work after the first son was born. There was screaming, tears and the whole nine yards. 20 years later and she still hasn't even had a part time job.

8 ( +8 / -0 )


Key word, meaning Japan is unmodern at the moment.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

only need a couple of large J companies to offer free daycare to their female staff , with the daycare being in the same building they work or close by, it would force other companies too follow suit or risk loosing femal workers. problem is J companies are too F stingy too do this, they'd rather the taxpayer foot the bill.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Two words - absolute, nonsense.

Employers in Japan pay women awful salaries - for most working mothers they will just about break-even after nursery school or school fees, and they only work just to get a nursery school place. And most employers in Japan do not pay mothers for working remotely from home when children get sick.

I have advised my wife that we are better off with her staying at home until our little one becomes 3 in 2 years time. It will be too stressful working and having children in nursery whilst making zero salary.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

It would have been better to have a variety of what other companies are doing in this article as it seems as if this is a PR job for Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co. in recruiting more female workers.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Becoming a mother has improved the way Maiko operates. No longer does she do hours of overtime, now she gets the same amount done in a shorter time. "My awareness has changed, and so I am more efficient," she says.

Great for her, now it's just the rest of the working population that needs to figure this one out!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The article is all very nice if taken at face value. If elite employers like the one in the article could take a lead, then yes, it would help change attitudes.

In reality, there are huge structural problems the way work is organized in Japan. The article does not say what happens when Shinji gets transferred to Kyushu at one month's notice, to mention just one of many standard practices at Japanese companies.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Lets cut to the chase here and save some space for other news stories.

Japan will not change and mothers with young children are expected to stay home and other women are paid terrible salaries and expected at some stage to become housewives. As simple as that. If a family needs a nursery school place then its part-time hours and a no-profit salary for the wife. Other working women are usually put on agency contracts whilst the men enjoy proper employer contracts.

My advice for women wanting a career in Japan is to learn English and work for an international company.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Seems like a headline with the content stretched to match it, no surprise it is Kyodo.

A key problem for dink families is that the day care system is rigid and inflexible, and dictated by bureacracy rather than meeting various family needs. That the scarce day care service is then subsidized means that families who can win access to service are often doubled penalized - not only do they have to forgo income because they can’t use day care, they are also paying tax to subsidize those lucky ones who do get to use the service. This boosts inequality.

A more consumer oriented, free and flexible system would do a better job and be fairer and likely more responsive to demands for various types of service.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

A wonderful invented scenario. Two professionals who have time and ability and a modern workplace.

Reality is that even single moms who work for schools as teachers have it rough in every way,

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Yeah, this is one great case but what about the many articles that we have been reading here about women not being able to work because they can't get their kids into nursery schools?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

No longer does she do hours of overtime, now she gets the same amount done in a shorter time. 

Hello! Now let the rest of Japan wake up to efficiency and productivity in a shorter time frame and the possibility of some semblance of work-life balance. Way too much time is spent looking busy and the best of the best who could lead by example are kept down by a hierarchical system that is based on the number of years a worker has spent wasting time.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Nice, I love it when women are back to work in numbers., especially mothers. Makes it a better work environment and place to work. Plus good opportunity to meet more women.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Whoops I meant double income, not dink.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

With each new Sunrise Japanese’s female comes closer to full Assimilation into 21st century’s workplace. Their next hurdle will be full acceptance into upper management rolls.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My advice for women wanting a career in Japan is to learn English and work for an international company.

Many J-women know that already and work not only for an international company but also abroad in order to get rid of the local hierachical system.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Like other wrote before, this article is just 100% PR and reality is totally different.

In many companies there is no such a thing like "maternity leave". You just gone for good.

Whole system is broken from the beginning.

You cannot get your child into day care until you got work. You can pay 80-100k monthly for daycare, but you need to earn it. Many daycare are closed around 16 or 17 (of course you can pay additional and have hours extended but it becomes 120k). No way that you can have full time job, you need also to commute and it takes time. Also sometimes you need to go clean the rooms, make washing or be part of many events at daycare places, so you need to take day off to do that. If baby is sick you cannot use daycare, sometimes if you are lucky there are daycare places for sick kids but it costs extra.

In reality women can have part-time job or contract via HR company, earn about 100-150k monthly that will cover daycare and there will be additional stress - not only in the office but also worrying all the time about baby, to get on time to pick him/her up to not pay penalties, to make washing, cleaning, cooking etc..

In the end women become more stressed out, less productive and every job is like "temporary" one, so no way to think about long-term job with perspectives for the future.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


The reality is not that bleak.

Many Hoikuen and Kodomoen have been adjusting and changing their policies to make things better for all.

There are no cleaning of rooms, or washing anything in preschool for the parents.

And most women with fulltime jobs will get maternity leave. My neighbor has been on it for nearly 4 years.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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