The LDP and the Fight Against Working Moms

How coincidental that right after I wrote about one women’s issue in Japan another one pops right up in the news. Masami Ito reports in  Assemblyman’s rebuke of moms seeking day care draws outrage. Yutaro Tanaka of the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan wrote in a blog that the women of Suginami were making “shameless” demands for more daycare services. He then digs his hole deeper by complaining, “What I am saying is don’t force your child-rearing on society from the start. . . . (The mothers) should have the manners and etiquette to say ‘Please help us raise our children.’ ”

The only shameless part of his entire little spiel is his absolute disrespect towards the women under his political care. However, this come as no surprise to me since the entire Japanese culture has flung back to a much more conservative style of thinking when it comes to women in general. Working moms in Japan exist, but generally the mothers work jobs that are part time and require little to no education to attain. Usually, these jobs are during school hours so moms can be there for their children before and after work.

That’s the ideal scenario, anyway. The fact is with the stagnant economy in Japan, more mothers have to work longer hours or even full time in order to make ends meet along with their working full time husbands. Married women make up about 57 percent of the female work force while about 65 percent of mothers are stay-at-home housewives. Yet usually a working married woman will need a way to keep the job while also juggling the responsibilities of managing any children born into the household. Tanaka seems to misunderstand the situation. It’s not that these women are placing a burden upon society, it’s that society is placing two very heavy burdens on Japanese women.

Men in Japan, as a general rule, don’t have a big hand in raising the children in the household. On average, men in Japan work 70+ hours a week. For statistics, the division of gender labor in a household in Japan is 1.5, with 1 being only women raise the children and 5 being only men raise the children. Tanaka probably couldn’t comprehend working those 70+ hours on top of raising a child, but he fully expects the women of Suginami to do just that, as do many men in Japan.

Besides, child care shouldn’t be a burden on society. Taking care of children should be a high priority for all of Japan considering its declining birth rate and rising aging population. Masami Ito reports that, “The massive number of children waiting to get into publicly certified nurseries is a nationwide problem…Health ministry data show 24,825 kids nationwide were denied day care in 2012. Tokyo led by far with 7,257 such kids. The ministry has set up a special fund, currently totaling ¥550 billion, to provide support to municipal governments to ease the problem.” Investing in child care is the smartest option, considering that more and more women in Japan would rather have a career than be mothers since there’s little to no help given to working Japanese moms.

On top of that, it’s interesting to note that families with non-working wives receive a tax deduction of  about ¥ 270,000.00 ($3,000), whereas a working woman when she earns more than about ¥ 750,000.00 ($8,200) a year the deduction drops to about ¥ 22,000.00($240). Women who work are also often denied benefits from their husband’s pension plan. In other words, it can actually hurt the household in the long run if a woman works. There’s little to no reward for working moms through the government as it stands now, and it doesn’t look like the LDP will change that part of the system anytime soon.

Adding even more salt to the economic wound, Goldman Sachs said in a report in October 0f 2010 that there’s “a significant lost economic opportunity for the nation,” since only 65 percent of college-educated Japanese women are employed. Many of these college educated workers are in low-paid temp jobs. In comparison, 80 percent of college-educated women in the United States are employed. Over two-thirds of Japanese women leave the work force after their first child compared with just one-third of American women, the report said, often because of corporate and societal norms, as well as insufficient child care. [Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, January 17, 2011] Basically, Japan is keeping quality minds and workers out of the economy, thus keeping Japan’s economy down. Society could be benefiting from them, but instead have to be forced into child rearing.

And so, to Tanaka I say work on getting college-educated women the help they need to help boost your economy. Quit calling them “shameless” for needing help because your system puts them in a tough position between having a job or having a child. Don’t be so surprised when they get angry and demand change because they have the degrees to do the work but the lack of government assistance, and even government hindrance, prevents them from doing so. While I’m not Japanese, I’ll use all my manners and etiquette to say to you:

“Please do your job.”