Japan wants more women in office, but household chores get in the way

They can help meet the labour shortage caused by a rapidly ageing population The paperwork never ends for Yoshiko Nishimasa. There are the meticulous logs she must fill out every day, not to mention the pages of work she carefully checks and approves. She even keeps daily records of conversations, activities and meals. But none of this is for her job as a marketing professional. It’s all for her children’s preschool. Like so many working mothers in Japan, Ms. Nishimasa, 38, is swamped by onerous, bureaucratic tasks that have nothing to do with her profession but constrain her participation in the workforce at a time when the country says it desperately needs more from women like her. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has a goal of energising his nation’s sputtering economy by elevating women in the labour force. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, Mr. Abe boasted that 67% of women were working in Japan, an all-time high. Little help from dads But many of those women are stuck in limited roles in the workplace, and one of the biggest hindrances to their ambitions — and the nation’s as a whole — is the disproportionate burden women shoulder at home. It is a legacy of the country’s domestic expectations and rigid gender roles for who performs them. While Japanese women have entered the workforce at historic levels, their avalanche of domestic responsibilities is not shrinking — and men in Japan do fewer hours of household chores and child care than in any of the world’s wealthiest nations. But Japan’s economy needs educated women like Ms. Nishimasa to work to their full potential. After Second World War, as the nation entered a period of rapid economic growth, Japanese women typically quit work when they married or gave birth, taking care of the home while their husbands worked punishingly long hours. Opposed to immigration With a declining and rapidly ageing population, Japanese employers are struggling with a severe labour shortage. Mr. Abe has underscored the importance of working women to shore up the economy. But more than half of working women are employed part time, and about a third are on temporary contracts. Women in Japan represent fewer than 1% of management positions, compared with an average of 4.6% among the world’s most developed nations. And Japanese women often face a double-edged sword. Like many Japanese companies, Ms. Nishimasa’s employer accommodates her towering domestic responsibilities. Until her youngest child, 2, enters second grade, she can work a shortened seven-hour day, albeit for 30% lower pay. She is never asked to do the kind of overtime she regularly put in before her children were born, when she was often at the office until 10 p.m. or later. After Ms. Nishimasa graduated, she worked for a textbook publisher as a sales associate. She married four years later. Much to her shock, the company converted her employment status to part time, she said. “My boss started saying, ‘You are not long for this job because you’re probably just going to go off and have kids, right?’” she recalled. She looked for another job, but prospective employers said, “You probably can’t work late, right?” The publisher where she landed a job later did not ask her marital status. After giving birth, Ms. Nishimasa never thought of quitting. But because her husband is expected to meet rigorous targets for raises and promotions, she cut back on work to take care of the children.NY Times

Source  : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-life/japan-wants-more-women-in-office-but-household-chores-get-in-the-way/article26170549.ece

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