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[wpaudio url=”https://www.btbpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/The-Worst-Developed-Country-for-Mothers.mp3″ text=”Click to listen”]

Last week, Kattie sent me a link to an article that she had seen on the BBC news site. As you know, she has had a number of Japanese students staying with her, and she is very interested in Japan and Japanese culture.

As a mother herself, she was particularly interested in this article because of its title. Please click here to read it. Kattie said that some of her Japanese guests had talked about this problem, and she wondered whether the article was an exaggeration, or whether it was a true reflection of life in Japan.

When she asked me about it, I thought it would make a great topic for the blog, so I hope you will all share your thoughts.

Whatever you think about this problem, it is important to remember that it is not just something that should concern mothers. The problem of a declining population is one that will affect all of us. As you all know, Japan has more and more old people being supported by fewer and fewer young people, and that situation is only going to get worse.

Basically, there are only two ways for Japan to solve this problem: one is to allow more immigration, and the other is to encourage women to work more. I can’t really see the first of those options being supported by many people, so I guess it will have to be the second.

Anyway, Kattie will post further questions after she has read your comments.

Look forward to hearing your opinions.

P.S. We think that we have fixed the problem with the smartphone website, but we are still not 100% sure. If you see someone else’s email address when you try to post a comment from your phone, please email us immediately. Thanks for your patience, and for all the helpful feedback. I am sorry it has taken so long to sort the problem out.

このブログは英語学習者のためのものです。レベルの高い人もいれば、初心者もいますので、自分のレベルや学習経験を気にする必要はありません。「いつもコメントを書いている人は仲間みたいだから参加しにくい」と思う方もいるかもしれませんが、勇気を出してコメントを書いてみてください。必ず温かく迎えてもらえます。多くのコメントは英語で書かれていますが、もちろん日本語もOKですし、英語と日本語を混ぜて書いても大丈夫です。言いたいことが言えないときは、How do you say 「〜」in English? と聞けば、きっとだれかが教えてくれると思います。私のエントリー、または他のメンバーのコメントの中に分からないところがあったら、「”…”はどういう意味ですか?」と遠慮なく聞いてください。このブログで使われているフレーズや表現をたくさん吸収すると、より自然な英語に近づけることができますよ!

コメントを投稿するときは、名前とメールアドレス、メールアドレス欄下に表示される4文字の英数字(CAPCHA code)を入れてください。 最初のコメントは承認後の公開になりますが、2回目からはそのまま投稿できます。

※メールアドレスは公開されません。

※CAPCHA codeは時間切れになることがあります。コード右上の矢印で更新してから入力してください。

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40 Comments

  1. Mika on 2013年03月26日 at 17:16

    Hi David,

    Thank you for your new topic.
    I tried to click “here” but it didn’t work.
    why?



  2. David Barker on 2013年03月26日 at 17:23

    Hi Mika,

    I’m not sure. It works on my computer. Has anyone else tried it?

    Anyway, here is the link.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21880124



  3. Anne on 2013年03月26日 at 17:25

    Hi David and Mika,

    This week’s topic interesting to discuss.

    Mika, I was able to read the article.
    I’m not sure why you couldn’t, but anyway,just for the record, here’s the link:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21880124

    Anne



  4. Anne on 2013年03月26日 at 17:27

    it’s me again:
    Sorry, David has already posted the link while I was writing! Please forget about it.



  5. Anne on 2013年03月26日 at 17:29

    訂正;
    “This week’s topic interesting to discuss” should be “This week’s topic is interesting to discuss.”

    Anne



  6. Mika on 2013年03月26日 at 17:34

    Hi David and Anne,

    Thanks!!
    I was able to link it!
    I’m happy now.



  7. YU on 2013年03月26日 at 18:07

    Hi everyone,

    I will be a bit busy with my work this week and next week(臨時業務), so I’d be very grateful if someone can translate David’s entry instead of me.

    Thank you in advance.

    YU



  8. Anne on 2013年03月26日 at 21:37

    Hi everyone,

    I tried translating this week’s topic instead of YU. This is a rough translation.

    The Worst Developed Country for Mothers?

    Last week, Kattie sent me a link to an article that she had seen on the BBC news site. As you know, she has had a number of Japanese students staying with her, and she is very interested in Japan and Japanese culture.

    先週、ケティが、彼女が購読しているBBCニュースのサイトの、ある記事についてのリンクを送ってくれました。皆さんご存知のように、彼女は多くの日本人の学生を自宅に受け入れていて、日本と、日本の文化に大変関心を持っています。

    As a mother herself, she was particularly interested in this article because of its title.
    Please click here to read it

    母親として、彼女自身、タイトルから、この記事には特に興味を覚えました。 ここをクリックして、(記事を)読んでみてください。

    Kattie said that some of her Japanese guests had talked about this problem, and she wondered whether the article was an exaggeration, or whether it was a true reflection of life in Japan.

    (滞在している)日本人学生が、この問題について話してくれたとケティは言っています。そして、この記事が、誇張されたものなのか、、それとも日本の生活の現状を照らし合わせたものなのか、と彼女は、疑問に感じています。

    When she asked me about it, I thought it would make a great topic for the blog, so I hope you will all share your thoughts.

    彼女が、この問題について、私に尋ねた時、これは、このブログにうってつけのトピックだと思いました。ですから、皆さんの考えを教えていただけたらと思います。

    Whatever you think about this problem, it is important to remember that it is not just something that should concern mothers.

    この問題についてどのように考えるにしろ、これは、単に母親にのみかかわるたぐいのものではないということを、心に留めておくことが重要です。

    The problem of a declining population is one that will affect all of us. As you all know, Japan has more and more old people being supported by fewer and fewer young people, and that situation is only going to get worse。

    人口減少の問題は、私たち皆に関係あることです。 皆さんご存知のように、お年寄りは増え続け、それを支える若者は、どんどん減り続けています。そして、この現状は、悪くなってゆくばかりです。

    Basically, there are only two ways for Japan to solve this problem: one is to allow more immigration, and the other is to encourage women to work more.

    基本的には、日本がこの問題を解決するには二つの方法しかありません: 一つは、より多くの移民を受け入れること。 そしてもう一つは、女性がもっと働くよう奨励すること。

    I can’t really see the first of those options being supported by many people, so I guess it will have to be the second.

    私には、最初の選択肢が多くの人から支持されるとはとても思えません。 ですから、選択肢は二番目と言うことになります。

    Anyway, Kattie will post further questions after she has read your comments.

    とにかく、ケティは、皆さんのコメントを読んだ後に、さらなる質問のコメントを寄せてくれるでしょう。

    Look forward to hearing your opinions.

    皆さんの意見を聞くのを楽しみにしています。

    Anne



  9. Biwa on 2013年03月26日 at 21:57

    Hi everyone,

    Here’s the translation for the topic this week.

    The Worst Developed Country for Mothers?
    母親たちにとって最も遅れた国?

    Last week, Kattie sent me a link to an article that she had seen on the BBC news site. As you know, she has had a number of Japanese students staying with her, and she is very interested in Japan and Japanese culture.

    先週、キャティがBBCのニュースサイトで見つけた記事のリンクを送ってくれました。皆さんもご存じの通り、彼女は何人もの日本人の学生を泊めているので、日本そして日本の文化にとても興味を持っています。

    As a mother herself, she was particularly interested in this article because of its title. Please click here to read it. Kattie said that some of her Japanese guests had talked about this problem, and she wondered whether the article was an exaggeration, or whether it was a true reflection of life in Japan.

    彼女自身、母親でもあるので、特にこの題名のおかげでこの記事に興味を持ったそうです。”here”をクリックすると記事が読めます。(キャティは)うちの泊り客の中にもこの問題について話す人がいたけれど、この記事は少々大げさに書かれているのか、それとも事実を反映したものなのか、知りたがっていました。

    When she asked me about it, I thought it would make a great topic for the blog, so I hope you will all share your thoughts.

    彼女が僕にこれを聞いてきた時、まさにこのブログにもってこいの話題だと思ったので、皆さんが自分の考えを書いてくれることを願っています。

    Whatever you think about this problem, it is important to remember that it is not just something that should concern mothers. The problem of a declining population is one that will affect all of us. As you all know, Japan has more and more old people being supported by fewer and fewer young people, and that situation is only going to get worse.

    この問題についてどんな風に考えるにしろ、「母親」だけに関わることではないということを忘れないでください。人口の減少は私達みんなに影響する問題です。言うまでもなく、日本の、増え続ける高齢者を減り続ける若者が支える、という構図はさらに悪化していくのですから。

    Basically, there are only two ways for Japan to solve this problem: one is to allow more immigration, and the other is to encourage women to work more. I can’t really see the first of those options being supported by many people, so I guess it will have to be the second.

    基本的に日本がこの事態を解決するには二つの方法しかありません。一つはもっと移民を受け入れること、もう一つはもっと女性に働いてもらうことです。私からすると一つ目の方法はあまり多くの人に支持されていないようですから、二つ目を実行するより他ないように思います。

    Anyway, Kattie will post further questions after she has read your comments.

    とにかく、皆さんの意見を読んでから、キャティがさらに質問をしてくれます(書いてくれます)。

    Look forward to hearing your opinions.
    皆さんの考えを聞くのを楽しみにしています。

    P.S. We think that we have fixed the problem with the smartphone website, but we are still not 100% sure. If you see someone else’s email address when you try to post a comment from your phone, please email us immediately. Thanks for your patience, and for all the helpful feedback. I am sorry it has taken so long to sort the problem out.

    スマホのウェブサイトにおける問題はおそらく解決したと思われますが、まだ100%確かではありません。もしもスマホから投稿しようとして、ほかの人のメールアドレスが残っているようなことがあれば直ちにメールしてください。皆さんのご理解・ご協力に感謝します。問題解決にこんなに時間がかかってしまい申し訳ありません。



  10. Biwa on 2013年03月26日 at 22:00

    Hi Anne,

    Sorry, I didn’t notice your translation was already posted! It means it took 20 minutes for me to do it. ha-ha!



  11. Mika on 2013年03月26日 at 23:40

    Hi David and everyone,

    I’m really impressed by Anne and Biwa’s nice work, so they kindly translated this week’s topic into beautiful Japanese very quickly.
    How wonderful members they are!

    Hi YU,
    Please don’t feel obligated.



  12. Anne on 2013年03月27日 at 05:55

    Hi Biwa,
    Please don’t say sorry:)
    Actually, it took me more than twenty minutes to do that, and I thought to myself when I was doing that, “Someone might has already posted this week’s translation.” Haha! Anyway, I like your version.

    Hi Mika,
    Thanks for your compliment.

    Anne



  13. Biwa on 2013年03月27日 at 11:11

    Hi Anne and Mika,

    Thanks for saying that. By the way, I noticed that it actually took me “more than” 20 minutes. I don’t know why I’m so bad at math!

    Hi YU,

    I’m wondering if you are doing extra work because many of your co-workers are taking holidays. Take care! I also hope this rain doesn’t ruin the cherry blossoms before you go and see them tomorrow!

    Hi Kattie and everyone,

    Well, very sadly, I don’t think this article was an exaggeration at all. Actually, I was one of those Nobukos. I never say I was well-qualified as her, but I used to work for a travel agency. I chose that job because I thought the tourism industry was one of the most developed for women. It sure was, and the job was really interesting with almost no gender gap. However, I soon found out that you need to add “as long as you can devote yourself to the company”. Working overtime was very usual, and we sometimes worked until the last train. The same situation applied to my husband, and he also had lots of business trips, so I couldn’t expect his help, either.

    I remeber only two out of almost a hundred in the office continued working after childbirth. They both lived together with their parents, so they had lots of help besides day-care centers. Otherwise, I think it was impossible. I couldn’t expect that because both of our parents lived far away. Besides, what discouraged me most was that they(my two co-workers) always had to be sorry to leave earlier than others.

    Perhaps, I just lacked toughness, but I couldn’t do but give up work. To be honest, spending all day with my children was also a very interesting job, but I couldn’t help feeling lonely and that I was something useless for the society. I know it depends on each person, but I still think this represents the feelings of most Japanese women.



  14. David on 2013年03月27日 at 11:14

    Hi Biwa and Anne,

    Thank you very much for the translations.

    Hi YU,

    Please don’t feel obliged to translate the entry every week. I know everyone appreciates your efforts, but I don’t want to burden you when you are busy.



  15. Biwa on 2013年03月27日 at 12:19

    Hi David, Mika and everyone,

    I got interested in your expressions “feel obligated to” and “feel obliged to”. I didn’t know the difference. If any of you are interested, my dictionary says;

    “feel obligated to” is now only in standard use in American English and some dialects such as Scottish, having disappeared from British English by the 20th century, being replaced by “obliged”.(it was previously used in the 17th through 19th centuries)



  16. YU on 2013年03月27日 at 18:18

    Hi David, Mika, Biwa, and everyone,

    Thank you for your concern, but I’m not that responsible! To tell the truth, I finished work much earlier than I had expected, so I went to see my mom friend near my house and stayed there almost for 5 hours! I’ve just come home a little while ago. (^o^)

    Hi Biwa,

    > I’m wondering if you are doing extra work because many of your co-workers are taking holidays.

    Actually, that’s not the reason why I do an odd job this time, but it’s just because my company offers 春の入会キャンペーン now. As you know, most students start taking a corresponding course in March or April in Japan, so this time every year seems to be the peak season in the industry!

    > I also hope this rain doesn’t ruin the cherry blossoms before you go and see them tomorrow

    I hope so, too.
    Actually I’m going to see cherry blossoms the day after tomorrow, but I know all my friends are not really interested in seeing flowers, but in eating and chatting!!

    Hi everyone,

    I often hear stories like the article these days and as Biwa mentioned, it is a true reflection of life in Japan.

    I’m also the one who quit working after giving birth to my first child. More precisely, I ended up quitting my work when I told my company that I got pregnant. They didn’t say it clearly, but they asked me to explain them how I would manage to do the same amount of work after giving birth.
    I was pressed to make a negative decision. My parents had passed away, my parents-in-law live in a foreign country, so there was no one who could help us with childcare.

    > Women who are having children are not working. Women who are working are not having children.

    This is very true, the situation is getting better, though.

    However, I think it is also true that lots of Japanese women with a university degree don’t want to stay in work after childbirth or even already after getting married.

    Not many Japanese women are as ambitious as Nobuko in the article. Many of them choose to marry a proper man in a proper time to become “just a housewife”(ただの専業主婦) = to “live comfortably”(楽をするために). For some Japanese women “a university degree” is just like an accessory in their background to find a good husband. People from other countries couldn’t believe this, though…

    Actually, I’m not really sure if this is because of Japanese women’s lazy nature or because of Japan’s male society, but I guess it is the second one.



  17. Mika on 2013年03月27日 at 20:32

    Hi David and everyone,

    I used to be a full-time housewife raising three children while I managed all of chores at home. When my children were in elementary school, I started to work as a part-time teacher in high school and did almost all of the things around the house by myself. On the other hand, my husband was a typical work-oriented person and didn’t do any chore at home. Of course I asked him to help me, but soon I expected little of his help.
    But, the time has changed. Husbands have to help their wives about housework and childcare. I heard that Japanese women’s working hours including housework and childcare are among the longest in the world.

    Here are my opinions.
    Solutions
    1)Establish enough nursery centers.
    (strategies as the zero-waiting list for nursery centers)
    2)Increase a subsidy to childcare cost
    3)Establish a climate favorable for taking a leave of absence for their children without constraint.
    *Consultation
    In Japan, there is a regulation in the Labor Standards Act that an employee can take paid holidays for more than 10 days.
    (日本では労働基準法で従業員は10日以上の有給休暇が取れる規定がある。)
    And it is common for those who have worked for several years to take paid holidays of more than 20 days.
    (数年勤めれば20日以上の有給休暇が与えられるのが普通だ。)
    Unfortunately, in Japan, the working environment is not always suitable for employees to take holidays, as many Japanese think they may bother their co-workers, or they may be ill spoken of by their superiors, and other reasons.
    (ところが、日本では、長期休暇を取ると、ほかの従業員に迷惑を掛ける、上司からよく言われないなど、従業員にとって長期休暇を取りやすい環境にはない。)
    4) Change Japanese males’ ready-made ideas about their female’s coworkers.
    (This is very tough!)

    Why can’t Japan stop the dwindling birth rate?
    I feel very sad to say this, but some mothers don’t want to have even second child. They might have some reasonable reasons, but I think that they don’t have enough mental elbowroom and worry about the education costs.
    ②There are many women of the marrying age who say that they do not find men suitable for them. I know some men who have the same idea with the women. (no marriage → no children)
    ③Many young people want to enjoy their own lives, because they don’t feel that marriage isn’t the only thing that can make them happy. (no marriage → no children)

    *Consultation about education costs
    Survey on education costs : 子どもの教育費調査 (2003-11)
    The government has announced the results of a survey on education costs for households.(政府が世帯の教育費に関する調査結果を発表しました。)
    Total education costs for high school and university average 9.7 million yen per person.(高校と大学にかかる教育費の合計は、1人当たり平均970万円です。)
    About 40 percent of households surveyed have children who live away from their families to attend school.(調査した世帯のおよそ4割に自宅外通学者がいました。)
    Parents send them about 1.4 million yen per year in financial support.
    (両親は離れて暮らす子どもに年間140万円を仕送りしています。)
    Education costs take up 34 percent of the annual income of households.
    (教育費は世帯の年収の34%を占めています。)
    More than half of households are forced to cut down on expenses to save money for education costs.
    (調査に協力した世帯の半分以上が、教育費を捻出するために他の出費を抑えざるを得ないと答えています。)

    Keep working is not easy, but I daresay from my experiences that if you have a chance to work, you should try it because there are something goods that you can learn. I believe that I was able to absorb much through my teaching career.

    I don’t have enough confidence that I could express my ideas accurately, but I tried to do my best. Thank you for reading.



  18. Kattie on 2013年03月27日 at 21:49

    Hi everyone,

    I’m really interested to read your comments. I agree with Mika, from what I have heard, I think Japanese women work very long hours. I would also love to hear what men think about this topic too so if there are any men out there it would be really nice to hear from you! There is a tendency to view childcare and care of the home as women’s issues but I think they are society’s issues and we must all deal with these matters.

    I have so many questions but here are just a few: 1) Everyone talks about long working hours in Japan. Do you think it is necessary to work so many hours and do so much overtime? I wonder if there are some meetings and afterwork social events that are not really necessary. I just googled this subject of working hours and found this interesting article which mentions that working longer hours doesn’t actually lead to increased productivity http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18144319. Have you heard the expression ‘A camel is a horse designed by a committee’? It basically means if you get too many people involved in making decisions you can end up creating something unnecessarily complicated and can lose sight of your objective
    2) Although the Trade Union Movement in the UK has been in decline since the late 1970s I think it helped to create a culture in the UK where people expect to have a good work-life balance. How strong is the Trade Union movement in Japan?
    3) I get the impression from talking to my Japanese guests that Japanese men rarely do housework and although things are changing, there are still a lot of young men who don’t think it is their job. Assuming this is the case, what do you think about this?
    4)Why is education so expensive in Japan?! What does the state provide?

    You might be surprised to hear that in the UK it is very unusual for people not to take their full holiday entitlement – I checked and almost all workers are entitled to 5.6weeks paid holiday a year. In reality, a lot of people have even more holidays because either their firms offer them more or they negotiate this when they accept a job offer.



  19. Fumie on 2013年03月27日 at 22:50

    Hi David, kattie and everyone,

    I’m afraid we have to admit the article is a true reflection of life in Japan, not an exaggeration. 残念ながらこの記事は日本の現状を正確に表してると思います。I knew there were all those problems in Japan which makes hard for women to work, still I was shocked by the statistics(numbers).日本の女性が働き続ける問題点を知っていたけれど、統計の数字を見てショックでした。The article shows how difficult for women in Japan to continue working compared to other developed countries like Sweden, Germany and US.それらの数字はいかに日本の女性が他の先進国に比べ、働き続けることが困難かを示しています。
    >In countries like Sweden, Denmark and the US, where female employment rates are high, birth rates are also higher. In countries where female employment is low, like Italy, South Korea and Japan, birth rates are also low. (the BBC article)
    So it means, if society change to a kind one for working women, more women will continue working while having more children: population will increase: virtuous circle.!それならもっと女性が働きやすい社会になれば、女性は子供を産みつつ働き続けるだろうし、人口が増える。これは好循環なのでは!
    It is embarrasing as the third economically powerful country:Japan, the worst developed country for mothers, as the title suggested.経済大国第3位の日本が、この記事のタイトルが示すように、母親にとって最低の先進国、と呼ばれるのは恥ずべきことだと思う。 We should promote Womanomics as a national priority.
    今こそWomanomicsを最優先事項として推し進めるべきではないか。



  20. YU on 2013年03月28日 at 00:36

    Hi Kattie,

    Here are my answers.

    1) Do you think it is necessary to work so many hours and do so much overtime?

    As we discussed some months ago, I don’t think it is necessary in most cases, but you may really need to work many hours and do much overtime in some cases like Nobuko used to do at her last job.

    > I wonder if there are some meetings and afterwork social events that are not really necessary.

    I don’t think most meetings held in Japanese comanies are necessary. I’m not really sure what you mean with ‘afterwork social events’, but today, I hardly hear Japanese working women are forced to attend ‘afterwork social events’ except some special occasions like co-worker’s welcome/send-off parties or New Year’s/year-end parties. I think it is true that men regularly have afterwork social events with their co-workers or bosses in Japan, but they do it just because they don’t want to go home early to help housework or childcare. In women’s case, I think they tend to go drinking or dine out with their good friends after work. They aren’t always friends from work.

    2) Although the Trade Union Movement in the UK has been in decline since the late 1970s I think it helped to create a culture in the UK where people expect to have a good work-life balance.

    I know what you mean, but I don’t think the actual situation is that easy. Only 30% of all companies in Japan are large firms and the rest(70%) are all micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. I heard the rate is quite high among developed countries. I don’t think those small companies can afford to employ regular workers, but who can work only for short hours unless they receive government support. It is a matter of life and death to them.

    > Japanese men rarely do housework and although things are changing, there are still a lot of young men who don’t think it is their job.

    That’s true. Besides, there are still a lot of young men who want their partner to become a fulltime housewife. As I mentioned, there are also a lot of young women who want to quit their job and become a housewife after marriage, so supply and demand are well balanced!
    Joking apart, I wonder if Japanese women just don’t feel like making useless effort because they know well that they can’t get payed or promoted as same as men in Japanese society.

    > Assuming this is the case, what do you think about this?

    I think it’s disgusting!
    I think it shows really well that Japan is a male dominated society. I’m lucky to have a foreign husband. He helps me with housework and childcare as much as he can.

    4)Why is education so expensive in Japan?! What does the state provide?

    Could you ask our Prime Minister Abe directly??

    I wrote this here before, but Japan spends the least public funds in education among developed countries. I wonder why our government likes to tormenting families with children so much and spending a lot for older people.



  21. YU on 2013年03月28日 at 00:49

    【correction】

    > but they do it just because they don’t want to go home early

    but I suspect it might just because…

    > why our government likes to tormenting families with children

    ….likes tormenting…..



  22. Tomoaki on 2013年03月28日 at 07:04

    Hi everyone

    I’m very busy preparing for moving to Tokyo, in where I’ll have to start working from April.

    This week topic is not easy for me, there may be many reasons and many hurdles which Japan has to solve. I think what mothers here said was really true and much more women should work. However, I wonder how many women in Japan really want to work even after getting married and having babies, and I feel they would make little account of university degrees.

    I heard from many women that why they were working after getting married or having babied was that their husband didn’t earn much money, so they didn’t want to work but they worked reluctantly. Therefore, man should work much harder to earn much money and have no time to look after their children.

    When I read Nobuko’s story, I thought she was a super woman. She has a qualification of a layer. In Japan, to get the qualification is one of the most difficult work. It is so natural that she want to work “as a layer” after childbirth. The situation is also applicable to other jobs which certain qualification is required.

    I don’t think the systems is not bad. However, it is not only reason of this problem.



  23. Biwa on 2013年03月28日 at 08:07

    Hi Kattie and everyone,

    >I heard from many women that why they were working after getting married or having babied was that their husband didn’t earn much money, so they didn’t want to work but they worked reluctantly.

    I think Tomoaki has a point here.
    I also think it’s necessary to consider permanent workers differently from non-permanent workers.
    Very roughly saying, I think many of these problems would be solved if all the workers in Japan were non-permanent workers. I know it’s completely unrealistic, though.

    It is said that the salaries of those people are about 60% of those of the permanent workers. If your husband’s salary were cut down to 60% of what he gets now, I think many women would “have to” work. Also, as non-permanent workers are hired by/per time, they don’t actually need to work overtime, I guess.

    Well here are my answers to Katties questions:

    1) I certainly do think that Japanese are working too long hours, but I don’t think things are that simple by watching my husband and my friends’ husbands. As it was mentioned in the article which you have shown us, there is a huge gap in working hours (and also the ways of their thinking) between permanent workers and non-permanent workers.

    Back in the 1980s, Japan had an economic bubble of prosperity, and at that time, the Japanese way of management like “lifetime employment” and “seniority systems in ranking and wages” were working. So, workers were able to expect salary increases without worrying about being fired as long as they worked hard and showed loyalty towards the company.

    However, the bubble burst in the 90s, and the companies started to shift to the Western (American?) way, which was a performance-based wage and cutting down the manpower whenever needed. At the same time, companies welcomed many non-permanent workers whose salaries were lower. I read somewhere that more than 30% of the total workers today are non-permanent in Japan, and the number is increasing every year. (I wonder what the percentage is in the UK.)

    I think this fear/possibility of becoming a non-permanent at any time is one of the biggest reasons why the permanent workers keep working for such long hours even on holidays. It’s really ironic because, as you said, working longer hours doesn’t necessarily increase productivity. However, that is the way Japanese have been showing their loyalty.

    2) I don’t think the Trade Union Movement is that strong in Japan, either. Especially after the economic burst, the employers forced them to choose between putting up with low wages and cutbacks in the workforce. They had no choice but to accept the bad working conditions because no one wanted to lose jobs. Japan is still half way through its pursuing a good work-life balance, I guess!

    3) As I wrote in the beginning, I think that if a household didn’t really run without both the wife’s and husband’s incomes, I think men will start changing! And I do think it will be so in the very near future. As in the older entries, taxes are rising and pay is falling. I don’t think full-time housewives would exist, except for those who get married to a very rich man!

    4)> I wonder why our government likes to tormenting families with children so much and spending a lot for older people.

    I totally agree and I think I can answer YU’s question! Because there are so many older people in this country, and their votes support the current government.



  24. YU on 2013年03月28日 at 10:39

    Hi Tomoaki,

    > However, I wonder how many women in Japan really want to work even after getting married and having babies,
    > I heard from many women that why they were working after getting married or having babied was that their husband didn’t earn much money, so they didn’t want to work but they worked reluctantly

    I totally agree with you.
    Almost all mothers around me say that actually they don’t want to work at all, but they are forced to work because their husband doesn’t earn enough. They work part-time just because having children costs far too much in Japan.

    > and I feel they would make little account of university degrees.

    It’s really a waste that a lot of Japanese parents work hard to send their daughters like you mention above to universities.
    As I said, for those daughters and their parents “a university degree” is just something like a qualification to find a very good(=rich) husband because those men(family) prefer “well-bred”(育ちの良い) women, too. As you know, in Japan many people believe that women who have a university degree are often from a middle-class family or above and sadly, this is very true.

    > When I read Nobuko’s story, I thought she was a super woman.

    I thought so, too. The article is indeed a true reflection of life in Japan, but I wonder if taking up only a super woman like Nobuko to talk about the whole Japanese women is really appropriate. 
    As I mentioned, I don’t think all women in Japan are chasing their career like Nobuko, but I suspect that most of them like to be a fulltime housewife, or work only part-time to supplement their husband’s income.

    > Very roughly saying, I think many of these problems would be solved if all the workers in Japan were non-permanent workers. I know it’s completely unrealistic, though.

    I agree.
    I think the problem is if Japanese women really want to work longer hours or not. Most mom friends around me work only part-time, and within the hours(salary) they can get a full tax exemption. That means, the government will not get more tax revenue unless those mothers start wroking longer hours exceeding the limit of the tax exemption.
    Frankly speaking, I can hardly believe that most Japanese mothers are that ambitious or kind to support the govenment income, they are only interested in their family budget.

    Hi everyone,

    > Japan’s Hidden Asset, Japanese-American economist Kathy Matsui says getting more Japanese mothers to stay in work or go back to work should be a “national priority”.

    What she says might be right, but I doubt if things will go that well. As I mentioned above, I have a feeling that most Japanese women don’t want to go back to fulltime work after marriage or childbirth as long as their husbands earn enough.



  25. Biwa on 2013年03月28日 at 22:25

    Hi YU and everyone,

    >I have a feeling that most Japanese women don’t want to go back to fulltime work after marriage or childbirth as long as their husbands earn enough.

    Maybe you’re right, but I think it’s a real pity that even people who are well-qualified and ambitious like Noriko have to quit work because of the system and costs. It’s certainly a huge loss for the society, isn’t it?

    By the way, I’ve seen a TV program a while back that featured vocational educations or programs in Finland and Sweden. The state provides various programs for those who want to improve their career prospects. They said not only people seeking jobs but also many mothers attend these programs during their child-care leaves, and consequently, they return to their original (or even to better) jobs/posts with confidence. The system seemed to be all set to make the best use of every manpower. As a result, those countries have much higher birthrates than Japan.

    I really wish if we had those, too, because the longer your period of leave gets, the more difficult it gets to catch up. I think this system would encourage a lot of mothers to get back to work.



  26. Fumie on 2013年03月28日 at 22:28

    Hi Kattie,

    I didn’t notice your comment when I posted mine last night.
    I was going to answer your questions but YU and Biwa gave nice answers so I just write my idea about 3).
    3) I get the impression from talking to my Japanese guests that Japanese men rarely do housework and although things are changing, there are still a lot of young men who don’t think it is their job. Assuming this is the case, what do you think about this?
    -That’s true. Japanese men don’t help with taking care of children and house chores much compared to Western men but things are changing. But I read in the newspaper that today’s young people are becoming more conservative: women prefer to be full-time housewife instead of continue working after getting married. The percentage of supporting women should be stay at home and men should be work had been decreasing though in the recent survey, young people especially in their twenties, support this traditional gender role. The main reason is, in reality because of the recession, both husband and wife have to work to make ends meet although some women want to stay at home, as Tomoaki and YU explained. Another aspects of young people’s conservatism: don’t want to possess their cars, don’t want to go abroad to study and experience other cultures, don’t want to marry. It seems to me that their way of thinkings reflect current gloomy society.



  27. Kattie on 2013年03月28日 at 22:33

    Hi everyone,

    Things are not perfect in the UK for working parents either(note- I am saying parents because, as I said before, I think this is an issue for everyone, not just for mothers) but they have improved a lot in the last 50 years. I don’t want to come across as overly critical here because, as I hope you all know, I am very interested in Japanese culture and I think there are many good things in your culture that are lacking in ours and I have really enjoyed having all our Japanese guests. I was, however, interested in this BBC article because it echoed some of the concerns that my guests have raised and so I was interested to hear what you all thought and whether you agreed that this is a problem. I get the really strong impression from all your comments that Japanese women are often not keen to go back to work after having children (unless they have to) because the rewards are not great enough. I think the main issues are:
    1) The costs of nursery care. In the article Nobuko mentioned the costs and Tom and I were both absolutely amazed at how expensive it is, especially private nurseries and we wondered how they could possibly be that expensive! Also the cost of education generally seems incredibly high. Are there no state schools or, if there are, do most people simply choose not to use them?
    2) Men do not share enough of the housework or childcare and so, if a woman did go back to work it would still be expected that she would do the virtually all the work in the home in her ‘free’ time. Actually I think that even if one part of a couple only works part-time, or are even full-time homemakers (This is a newish politically correct term) and the other person works full-time, the person who works full-time should still be expected to do some of the housework in the evenings and particularly at the weekends. Housework and childcare are never ‘done’ in the way that certain other jobs can be considered ‘done’, so sharing the chores means that the couple can enjoy time together. It also means that both parents can enjoy a relationship with their children – after all, having children is a joint decision. Finally when the children eventually leave home and the couple are retired, it is nice if they are both able and willing to share the household chores. As we often say ‘It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks’ so if men have never been involved in household chores they are unlikely to start at 65! I think the happiest couples are the ones who share
    3)The working culture needs to change for everyone, not just for women, so that people feel they can take time off and don’t have to work unnecessarily long hours. It also sounds like women are not getting paid equally or being promoted so, as Yu said ‘I wonder if Japanese women just don’t feel like making useless effort’. A few years ago it was decided that the working hours in the UK parliament were not conducive towards family life and that this might put off some women from becoming MPs (Members of Parliament). Because of this, it was decided that the hours should change and this, together with a number of other key changes, has had a dramatic effect on the number of women seeking election.

    I understand that there are some jobs which do need people to work very long hours but these are very few and far between, even in areas like law and medicine. I am in legal recruitment and there are many areas of law which do not require excessively long working hours. Biwa and Yu mentioned that because of the economic downturn, employees do not really have much bargaining power and I think that is also the case here in the UK. Interestingly I have heard of quite a few recent cases where workers have been asked directly by their employers whether they should make some people redundant or whether everyone will all accept a cut in hours and the employees have voted uninamously to reduce their hours. When interviewed, the employees said they were actually very happy with this arrangement because, although they had to make cutbacks, they still had their jobs and could spend more time with their families. The employers were also happy because they could respond quickly to any increase in demand and people were not losing their skills. I think creative thinking can often solve a lot of these problems (even in a poor economic climate) and we should always be prepared to challenge the status quo

    I know that a lot of people do like to stay at home and look after their children, especially when the children are very young, and I think there are many advantages of doing this. I don’t think people who stay at home should be criticised but likewise women who want to return to work after having children should be given the chance to do so, as Fumie said society should also be ‘a kind one for working women’



  28. amo on 2013年03月29日 at 00:30

    Hi David and everyone,

    Most of all women around me have jobs and I don’t have anyone who is full time mum besides my youngest sister, but she lives in the US, so I can’t count. My eldest sister has four children and she returned to work after taking maternity leaves. If the situation was that bad for women, my work place would be paradise!! I have worked here for almost 8 years and some one or other have given a birth every year. (毎年、誰かしらは出産している)Actually, a co-worker is taking maternal leave and she will be coming back this september. So no one gives up working after having a child. Also some of co-workers who have children, take advantage of it. For example, some starts work a bit late, so they can see their children off to school, and some finishes one hour earlier, so they can collect their children from day-care center.
    As for me, I don’t want to work, if I get married. I really don’t like to get involved with other people so I prefer stay home and do housework.

    I am getting sleepy so I am off to bed,
    Good night and sweet dreams,
    amo



  29. YU on 2013年03月29日 at 01:59

    Hi Biwa,

    > I think it’s a real pity that even people who are well-qualified and ambitious like Noriko have to quit work because of the system and costs. It’s certainly a huge loss for the society, isn’t it?

    I think so, too.
    The article says that Japanese mothers to stay in work or go back to work should be a “national priority”, but it seems to me that the idea is completely ignores the will of a large majority of Japanese women. I also think what the economist in the article says(= it could add as much as 15% to Japan’s GDP) is very unrealistic and too optimistic.
    As Kattie mentioned, women who want to return to work after having children should be given the chance to do so, but I don’t think people who stay at home should be criticised, either.

    Hi Kattie,

    Here are my answer to your question about the cost of nursery care in Japan.

    There are several types of school for very young children in Japan.

    a)private kindergarten

    The children of most mothers around me go to this type of school.
    This type of school looks after your children only from about 9AM to 2PM. So children’s mothers are usually a fulltime mother.
    The day-care fee is the same for everyone – about 20,000 to 25,000 yen($210~$260) per month.

    b)state kindergarten

    Their business hours(?) are almost the same as the one of private kindergartens, but their fee is about half or less. They are always popular, but a lot of mothers(including me!) don’t choose them because they often offer us poor services – no schoolbus, no school lunch. That means, you have to take your children to and from the kindergarten and prepare a box lunch every day!!

    c)government(=authorized) nursery school

    They take care of your children much longer hours than kindergartens do – from about 7:30AM to 6/7PM. Working mothers use this type of school.
    The fee is means-tested.
    Parents are not entitled to use this type of school unless they both work fulltime.
    They are always super crowded, the one Nobuko means is this one, I guess.

    d)unauthorized nursery school

    They open longer hours than authorized ones. They are flexible, but they often rent a room in the building near the station to use it as their nursery space. That means, no playground for your children.
    The fee is means-tested, but it is usually more expensive than the authorized ones.



  30. Anne on 2013年03月29日 at 02:29

    Hi David and everyone,

    I really enjoyed reading members’ and Kattie’s comments.
    Things concerning working situations and work-life balance seem to have been changing compared to the days when I was young. Have you ever heard of a word called”寿退社(Kotobuki Taisya);it means a woman quits the job to get married. Many women quit the job when they got married.

    One of the reasons that discourages women to keep working after having a baby is the lack of nursing care center. Without solving this problem, it’s impossible to get back to work for women,isn’t it? Some of my friends are involved in taking care of their grandchildren when their daughters start working again.

    As for sharing the housework and childcare, I found the following part of Kattie’s comment interesting.
    【Actually I think that even if one part of a couple only works part-time, or are even full-time homemakers (This is a newish politically correct term) and the other person works full-time, the person who works full-time should still be expected to do some of the housework in the evenings and particularly at the weekends. Housework and childcare are never ‘done’ in the way that certain other jobs can be considered ‘done’, so sharing the chores means that the couple can enjoy time together.】

    I have many friends sharing their households just like Kattie mentioned, but in general, when a women is stay at home, I think the situation is quite different. Actually, when I went to the UK for three weeks about five years ago after my parents-in law passed away, some of my friends said to me,”Wow! What a surprise! I can’t believe that your husband ALLOWED you to be away from home for such a long time.” I think this idea reflects the relationship between husband and wife, especially in my generation.
    My husband retied yesterday,but I don’t think to worry about the situation like “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks’ ” as far as households concerned.

    In Japan, you might often hear a word “イクメン”(Ikumen); it literally means “men who take care of their children well enough.” The government use this word as a part of the policy to encourage women to get back to work, but it’s really tough for men to take paternity leaves. Last year, Governor Mie Prefecture took a paternity leave and it became the news, but it was only 3.5 days! It’s not one or two months. I guess it’s the reality of Japan.

    Anne



  31. Kattie on 2013年03月29日 at 04:04

    > or are even full-time homemakers
    I’m sorry, this should have been in the singular ‘or is even a full-time homemaker.

    Hi Yu,

    I see! The situation regarding nursery schools in Japan is quite complicated because of the various options. I have asked my guests about this but I never really understood it until now. Thank you for your clear explanation. What age are the children at these nursery schools?
    In the UK state schools usually have a nursery section and this is completely free. Things have changed a bit since Emily and Rosie were that age but I think they start going at about the age of 2.5 to 3 years old.

    If you want to have your child looked after before that age, there are various private options like nannies, childminders (your child goes to the childminder’s home. Childminders are often women who have had children and will look after your child alongside their own, private day nurseries and I think there are a small number of state nurseries. I am not up-to-date with this now, David might know more about this because I think his brother has young children.

    Hi Anne,
    > My husband retied yesterday,but I don’t think to worry about the situation like “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks’ ” as far as households concerned.
    Do you mean you don’t mind him not doing any housework?

    >Some of my friends are involved in taking care of their grandchildren when their daughters start working again.
    This happens in the UK too

    Hi everyone,
    It’s Easter weekend here so we have a holiday tomorrow and on Monday – it’s not nearly such a big occasion as Christmas but we usually do things like have a nice meal, see friends, give Easter eggs and eat hot cross buns. The weather here is still horrible and we’re all fed up with it now, normally by Easter we are seeing the first signs of Spring!



  32. Anne on 2013年03月29日 at 07:15

    Hi Kattie,

    > My husband retied yesterday,but I don’t think to worry about the situation like “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks’ ” as far as households concerned.
    Do you mean you don’t mind him not doing any housework?
    —Oh, I should have written “I don’t think that I need to worry about the situation”“It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks’ ” as far as households concerned.” because he shares a lot of household even now. Actually, he started preparing breakfast on weekends as a part of training by using his fingers after he fell down cerebral hemorrhage, but now he prepared breakfast every day for both of us:) He seemed to have been accustomed to cooking or other things when he was in college and was away from home. He doesn’t mind dong houseworks with me.

    In Japan, husbands who had retired used to be called as “ぬれ落ち葉”(Nureochiba); it literaly means “wet leaves.” After retired, hunbands don’t know how to live everday life, always follow after wives, and don’t do anything. It’s really stressful for housewives.

    I meant to say that my husband won’t be in such a situation.

    Anne



  33. Biwa on 2013年03月29日 at 08:48

    Hi YU,

    >As Kattie mentioned, women who want to return to work after having children should be given the chance to do so, but I don’t think people who stay at home should be criticised, either.

    I completely agree! I just think that people should be able to have their own choices.
    My sons used to go to c)an authorized nursery school(but only for three years from when they were 4 to 6), because there is a good one just three minutes away from our house. We were really lucky because I work at home and not even full-time, but we were able to send both of them.

    As you said most of your friends send their children to a)private kindergartens, whereas most of my friends to c)nursery schools, our impressions of women’s eagerness to work might differ a bit. Anyway, as there are so many children on the waiting-list for nursery schools, I think Japan is wasting a huge potential manpower.

    Hi Kattie,

    >What age are the children at these nursery schools?

    Nursery schools accept children from 0 to 6, and the fees differ according to the age. Of course, younger children(babies) cost more.
    I kind of understand why you couldn’t really understand your guests’ explanations. As the fees for nursery schools vary a lot according to your income and your child’s age, it’s quite difficult to tell the average. In my case, I sent them from 9 in the morning to 4-6 in the evening, depending on my work. (I have classes mainly in the evening, so this system was really helpful to me.) I don’t really remember how much we paid, it’s been about 15 years ago!, but I don’t think it was that expensive.
    We also have childminders(保育ママさん), too, and mothers who have to work until really late were using the system. They collect your child from nurseries, take care of your child until you get back from work. I’m not sure how much they cost, though.

    >Interestingly I have heard of quite a few recent cases where workers have been asked directly by their employers whether they should make some people redundant or whether everyone will all accept a cut in hours and the employees have voted uninamously to reduce their hours.

    I’m not sure if the employers ask directly, but I think this is also happening in Japan quite often these days, and as I said before, it will make many wives to start working again, either full-time or part-time, of course, if they want to.

    When I think about my sons’ future, I’m quite sure that they will have more choices in the ways of working than now. Both men and women would be more involved in earning and in house-making together. I think it’s a good change. Maybe I’d better offer them more chores like cooking!



  34. YU on 2013年03月29日 at 08:50

    Hi Kattie,

    I can answer your questions breifly.

    a)private kindergarten

    – They accept children ages 3 to 6.

    b)state kindergarten

    – Ages 4 to 6.

    c)government(=authorized) nursery school
    d)unauthorized nursery school

    – Usually 0.5 to 6.
    Some accept babies under 0.5, too.

    I’m going to see cherry blossums today.

    Have a nice day!



  35. Biwa on 2013年03月29日 at 08:54

    Hi amo,

    >As for me, I don’t want to work, if I get married. I really don’t like to get involved with other people so I prefer stay home and do housework.

    (LOL!) I think you work too much. Did you say you’re working at a bank? Your place really sounds like paradise, and perhaps I’ve made a wrong decision when choosing my former job. Ha-ha!



  36. Biwa on 2013年03月29日 at 09:52

    Hi Fumie,

    >young people especially in their twenties, support this traditional gender role

    I wonder if young men think so, too. I have an impression that it’s getting really difficult to earn enough for a household by only men’s income, especially for young couples. Maybe men want their partners to work, but many young women prefer being a full-time housemaker, and naturally, there’s a huge gap between the supply and demand. As a result, there are many young people that don’t/can’t? get married.
    David, if you are reading this, I’d love to hear what your students think about this issue.



  37. Fumie on 2013年03月29日 at 11:47

    Hi Kattie,

    Thank you for sharing your ideas and telling us the situation in the UK.
    >I get the really strong impression from all your comments that Japanese women are often not keen to go back to work after having children (unless they have to) because the rewards are not great enough.

    I don’t think that’s always true. Most of mothers in my generation is working ,mostly part-time though. Some work to earn extra money for their children’s education and some work because they want to be involved in the society (want to feel they are needed in the society)even when his husband’s salary is high enough.

    >,so sharing the chores means that the couple can enjoy time together. It also means that both parents can enjoy a relationship with their children – after all, having children is a joint decision.

    That’s so true. If husband don’t help with any childcare, using work as an excuse, he is just a breadwinner not a father. And he will miss a chance to know the joy of children’s growth.

    >I think creative thinking can often solve a lot of these problems (even in a poor economic climate) and we should always be prepared to challenge the status quo

    That’s very important point. I should always keep that in my mind. Thanks!

    Happy Easter! I hope you will have a lovely Easter holiday with your family. In Japan, Easter isn’t be known so much ,as Christmas or Halloween.

    Hi Biwa,

    >Maybe men want their partners to work, but many young women prefer being a full-time housemaker, and naturally, there’s a huge gap between the supply and demand. As a result, there are many young people that don’t/can’t? get married.

    I’m afraid that’s the true reflection of current situation. I’m very worried about my sons’ future. I guess you do ,too. (you might worry about your son’s future, too.)



  38. Biwa on 2013年03月29日 at 13:01

    Hi Fumie,

    Well, I don’t really worry whether they get married or not, it’s rather something up to them. However, I certainly hope they don’t become one of those Parasite-singles! (^O^)b



  39. YU on 2013年03月29日 at 16:09

    Hi Fumie,

    > Most of mothers in my generation is working ,mostly part-time though

    I think it’s very natural because you have older children. I guess most of your friends’ children are elementary school students or above. But I don’t think it’s very easy for mothers having very young children like me to work fulltime or even part-time in Japan.

    To tell the truth, I don’t want to work fulltime now because I want to spend time with my son. I work part-time, but I chose my current job because I can stay with him even during my work.

    Some of my mom friends returned to work after having their maternity leave for 6-12 months, but they all said that they actually wanted to spend more time with their children at home, but they couldn’t just because they feared losing their job. This is a tough question – Which is more important, your mothely love or your job?

    So, still, I think Nobuko is rather a rare case because she doesn’t sound having trouble with money. She wants to chase her career although she has three young children. I guess that’s because she is a qualified, super woman and she is very confident of herself. I don’t think average Japanese women like me are as ambitious as Nobuko.



  40. YU on 2013年03月29日 at 16:14

    【correction】

    > Which is more important, your mothely love or your job?

    …your motherly love….



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