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Japanese Women Need Better Workplaces

Tuesday, August 23, 2005 Posted: 10:12 AM JST

Better workplaces would encouage women to have children a survey on motherhood in Japan has found. This corresponds with findings of a white paper recently released by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The Internet-based survey asked women the question, "What change from current circumstances would encourage you to have children the most?". Multiple answers were allowed.

Some 43 percent of the respondents selected: "Having a workplace that would make it easy to work even with children." At 32.1 percent was "an increase in government assistance such as allowances for children." Only 26.4 percent of respondents selected a "zero waiting list (for nursery schools)."

In response to the question, "What change would make you want to give birth to children?" 42.0 percent of full-time housewives and 44.2 percent of unmarried women selected "a workplace where it is easy to work," showing that working conditions were closely related to the decision on how many children to have regardless of whether women were married or working.

When both men and women were questioned on time they spent with their children, 54.3 percent said, "I want to spend more time with my children even if my wages decrease." When the question was restricted to men in their 30s and 40s -- those in their working prime -- 61.3 percent said they wanted to spend more time with their children, indicating that values were gradually starting to change.

Some 85.0 percent of the respondents said that the government should finance child support "by cutting back on wasteful public works and administrative expenses," while 5.9 percent answered "by raising consumption tax."

When asked how the government should finance child support, the overwhelming response was "by cutting back on wasteful public works and administrative expenses," chosen by 85.0 percent of respondents. Only 5.9 percent selected the answer, "by raising consumption tax."

The answers correspond with findings of a white paper released by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in July. It shows that Japan's birthrate jumps in areas where more mothers have full-time jobs or fathers work less overtime.

According to the findings in the paper, there are more working mothers with full-time positions in smaller cities such as Yamagata and Toyama in the north and Kochi in the south, but their birthrates are higher than the national average. Birth rates are lower in larger cities where many women are part-timers or work long hours. In Tokyo and other big cities where more fathers work over 60 hours per week, birthrates tend to be low.

Japan is experiencing an extremely low birth rate and a fast graying of society. Last year's birth rate was 1.29. It is one of the lowest in the world. Political leaders have yet to come up with an effective strategy to cope with related problems.

The survey questions were prepared by the Mainichi Shimbun and the survey was conducted on July 19 and 20 by goo Research, which is operated by NTT-Resonance. Answers were obtained from 1,079 respondents.

Keywords: national_news

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
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