The Status of Women in Japanese Society
Japan is globally known for its male-dominated society. There is no question about that. Allow me to share my personal experience as a working mother.
I had worked for foreign financial institutions for many years before I became a freelance worker. After I graduated from university, jobs for women were limited to secretarial or clerical duties.
First of all, it was uncommon for women to work after marriage and even after childbirth. There were few nursery schools to entrust my child with during the daytime, and they only accept children with working mothers who need to work for a living. The nursery teachers said to me, “You will regret to leave your baby at daycare. Kids will leave you anyway when they grow up. You should take care of your baby by yourself.” I did not follow that advice, because everyone has a different opinion on raising a child.
My son frequently had fever at the nursery, and they called my office to ask me to pick him up. Also, my work ends at 5 pm at the earliest, but the nursery closes at 5 pm sharp. It takes about an hour to travel from the office to the daycare center. Therefore, three people took turns to pick up my son from the nursery by 5pm and took care of him until I got home.
I had a very busy job, but I liked it and learnt a lot of things from it .
However, I did not talk to my colleagues about raising my child. Women in our workplace have complicated backgrounds, that is, some are single, some are married but without children, while others are married but are struggling to have a child. I have to be careful about their feelings when I talk about my child, so I try not to talk about the hardships of raising a child, although I sometimes joke about it in the workplace. Nobody would be interested in my complaints about child-raising.
My personal view
The real problem occurred when my child started to attend elementary school. In Japan, most kids are sent to cram schools called “Juku” to have extra lessons in preparation for a good school. Mothers usually stay home and take care of their kids, guide their studies, and send them to cram schools or hire a home teacher. I did not have enough time to provide extra care for my child. My husband and I were constantly busy. This greatly annoyed me, because my lack of attention on his studies may negatively impact his life.
Most male politicians, doctors, lawyers, and business people in their 50s, 60s, or higher were raised by housewives. Their mothers must have sent their sons to cram schools to study hard and be successful. I wonder if such people can expect women to be equal partners and work actively in society.
In summary, it may take a generation to completely change the way society perceives women as part of the male-dominated workforce in Japan. However, it is now common for women to work in society. When today’s children grow up to become part of the labor force, Japan will change for the better when women can be equally active in the workplace.
Japan’s aging society is causing a decline in the size of its labor force. The government is finally starting to push up low birthrate to cope with the challenges in social security and labor shortage. Nowadays, women work after marriage and childbirth, and they are becoming a major force in Japan.