JILPT Research Report No.159
Women Fighting to Balance Between Child-rearing and Work:
Re-analysis of the JILPT National Survey of Households with Children 2011

June 10, 2013

Summary

Research Objective and Method

In Japan, labor participation by women in the child-rearing phase increased considerably between the early postwar years and the 1980s, but the rate of this growth has slowed since the 1990s. This report summarizes the latest situation in labor participation by women in the child-rearing phase, based on the latest survey data produced by JILPT. Among other issues, the report considers why the speed of their labor participation has slowed and what impact their employment has on their children.

Major Findings

Compared to China and the USA, there is still room for improvement in labor participation by women in the child-rearing phase in Japan. Before this, however, several high hurdles must be overcome. There is a continuing need to take measures such as further enhancing the system of childcare leave, developing nurseries in urban areas where there are long waiting lists for vacancies, and securing assistance for housework and childcare by husbands and grandparents. But these alone are not enough. It is imperative that we also break through the old equilibrium of  “gender-based role division in the home” and “gender discriminatory employment systems in companies”, and create a new equilibrium of “dual earner households”  and “gender employment equality in companies”.

While there are concerns that labor participation by women in the child-rearing phase could have a negative impact on  children’s outcomes, the analysis in this paper finds no rational justification for this concern. If anything, a mother working away from the home can be expected to enhance her children’s independence. In the households of working mothers, moreover, there is greater investment in children’s education, such as private preparatory classes (Fig. 1), and children’s state of health and school grades also tend to be good. In other words, labor participation by women in the child-rearing phase not only helps to increase Japan’s GDP, but also has many merits from the child’s point of view.

In the case of single mothers, however, a more multifaceted perspective is required as to the pros and cons of labor participation. Single mothers are dependent on labor participation for financial reasons, but they also need to balance this with child-rearing alone. This places them in harsh circumstances, both physically and mentally, compared to married women. For single mothers like this, it is difficult to escape from poverty through labor participation alone. It is therefore important to continue child-rearing allowance and other public support, and to strengthen child support enforcement from non-custodial fathers. Although it was feared that employment would exacerbate single mothers’ (mental) distress, empirical analysis has also revealed that there is no such impact.

Fig. 1 Mother´s employment situation and child-rearing costs, preparatory school and out-of-school activity ratio (limited to households with 1 child)

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Note: Child-rearing costs include food costs, clothing costs, schooling costs, nursery costs or kindergarten payments, out-of-school activity and preparatory class fees, medical costs and entertainment costs.

Policy Implications

To promote workplace advancement by women in the child-rearing phase, it will continue to be necessary to take measures such as further enhancing the system of childcare leave, expanding childcare services in urban areas where there are long waiting lists for vacancies, and securing assistance for housework and childcare by husbands and grandparents.

Policy Contribution

The outcome of this Research is expected to be used as basic data for women’s employment and child-rearing support.

Contents

  1. Cover – Preface – Authors – Contents
  2. Introduction Women Fighting to Balance Between Work and Child-rearing
  3. Part 1 Work, Child-rearing and Housework: The Three Roles of Women
  4. Part 2 Concerns for the Impact on Children
  5. Part 3 Struggles of Single Mothers in Work-Care Balance
  6. Appendices

Press Release “Re-analysis of the JILPT National Survey of Households with Children 2011” Survey Results

Research Categories

Project Research “Survey Research on improving employment quality by developing companies’ employment systems, personnel strategies, employment rules, etc., and materializing decent work”

Subtheme “Survey Research project on promoting women’s work activities”

Research Period

FY2012

Authors

Yanfei ZHOU
Vice Senior Researcher, The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training
Xinxin MA
Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kyoto University
Aya ABE
Department Manager, National Institute of Population and Social Security Research
Akiko OHISHI
Professor, Faculty of Law and Economics, Chiba University
Naofumi SAKAGUCHI
Associate Research Fellow, Institute for Research on Household Economics
James RAYMO
Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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