Vol.39-No.2 February 1,2000
Japanese workers are beginning to seek reconciliation of the demands of work with family life. In response to requests from their employees, some firms are introducing family-friendly work practices. In order to assist such firms, in autumn 1999 the Japanese Ministry of Labour set up a system of awards for family-friendly firms(1). This article discusses the background of these family-friendly measures, the current situation, and future tasks facing Japan.
There are three salient reasons why family-friendly policies are required. First, while the number of traditional families where the husband earns and the wife devotes herself to domestic chores and child care is decreasing, the number of households in which both husband and wife have incomes is increasing. Also increasing is the number of single-parent families. That is, the Japanese family is taking more varied forms than before. Second, due to the aging of society, an increasing number of employees face the necessity of managing, at the same time, care of the elderly and work. Third, even though a substantial proportion of men still support the notion of the traditional division of labor between men and women in the home, the proportion of both men and women supporting such traditional notions is rapidly decreasing (Figures 1 and 2). Not all women wish to work as men do, although more and more women regard work as important, even after marriage. Meanwhile, men are also beginning to seek lifestyles outside the traditional preoccupation with work, which enable them to attach importance to life at home and to harmonize their work with family life.
As the figures show, both men and women are increasingly attaching value to harmonizing family life and their work. Realization of such a balance nowadays regulates the degree of satisfaction not only with family life, but also with work itself. Accordingly, the rigid division of labor by gender, and the traditional form of the family, are beginning to break down. Additionally, so is the type of company management and human resource management based on the premise that the central interest of employees' lives is their company and work.
Nonetheless, the view still persists that the harmonization of the two is the responsibility of individual employees. However, many employees tend to experience stress, or a sense of pressure, from the difficulty of attempting to reconcile without assistance the demands of work and family life. It has been pointed out that such stress leads to lowering the productivity of workers and increasing the numbers of workers giving up their jobs. In light of these facts, helping employees to manage family life and work at the same time is beginning to be seen as a task to be undertaken by companies at the level of management. In other words, it has been understood that appreciating and supporting the employee as somebody who not only works, but also has a life at home, has the effect of raising productivity and keeping employees in their jobs(2). A company that provides adequate measures to help its employees reconcile the claims of work and family life is regarded as family-friendly.
3.0 The Current Situation Concerning the Adoption of Family-friendly Policies
The Families and Work Institute in the U.S. distinguishes three stages of family-friendly policy development (Galinsky et al., 1991). In the first stage, the harmonization of family and working lives is considered to be an issue to which companies should not commit themselves. Thus, support from companies is confined to women's issues of child care. In the second stage, support for the reconciliation of the demands of work and family life is recognized as a task for human resource management. Supportive measures are designed for both men and women and extend their coverage to family care as well as child care. In the third stage, such measures are not only perceived as a matter of human resource management, but are also highly valued as a key policy for companies' competitiveness. The scope of supportive measures is extended to various aspects of workers' lifestyles. At this stage, the concept of the reconciliation of work and family life develops into the reconciliation of work and life.
At which stage do family-friendly policies in Japanese companies stand? Under the Child Care and Family Care Leave Law, workers may take child care leave until the child reaches the age of one, and family care leave for a three-month maximum(3). Thus, in terms of the legal system, Japan stands at the second stage of family-friendly policies. However, the majority of workers who take such leave are females, and, in practice, Japan can be seen as being only on its way to the second stage. For example, according to the Women's Bureau of the Ministry of Labour (1997), between April 1, 1995 and March 31, 1996 a mere 0.6 percent of male workers took child care leave following the birth of a child.
Incidentally, family-friendly policies are not just limited to child care or family care leave. There is a variety of measures open to companies who wish to demonstrate support for the reconciliation of child care and work. These include a system of shorter working hours, flextime, the provision and operation of child care facilities within enterprises, and a reemployment scheme for workers who have left work for child care reasons. Table 1 shows the percentages of Japanese companies carrying out such measures.
From this data, it can first be seen that the scale of measures other than child care leave and family care leave adopted by Japanese enterprises is proportional to company size, being relatively low in small- and medium-sized companies.
Second, many of the supportive measures for reconciling the demands of child care and work, other than child care leave, are related to working hours. These measures include a scheme for shorter working hours, a system for starting or finishing work later or earlier, and a scheme for exemption from work in nonscheduled hours.
Third, the introduction of supportive measures for reconciling the demands of family care and work, other than family care leave, is lagging behind measures associated with child care. The most common measure adopted is a scheme for shorter working hours.
Fourth, apart from the measures seen above, leave schemes for care of family members and reemployment schemes are relatively common.
3.1 The Current Situation of the Introduction of Family-friendly Policies as seen in Comprehensive Indices
It is evident then that family-friendly measures take various forms besides child care and family care leave and that a modest proportion of companies have introduced such measures. Moreover, where child care and family care leave are concerned, some companies provide their employees with more generous schemes than the standards guaranteed in law.
Table 1 shows the ratios of establishments introducing family-friendly measures in terms of their purposes. In order to gain an insight into how satisfactory these measures are, let us now analyze them, not in terms of the adoption rate of individual measures, but as a whole.
For the purpose of this analysis, Table 2 documents comprehensive indices concerning the family-friendly policies adopted by firms. Data utilized for the indices are from the Survey on Women Workers' Employment Management conducted by the Ministry of Labour in 1996. It should be noted in passing that at the time of the survey a child care leave scheme was mandatory, whereas a family care leave scheme remained a duty for enterprises to endeavor to fulfill.
In the comprehensive indices, points were given to a firm when it adopted a certain family-friendly measure. Concerning legally compulsory measures, points were given, in principle, when a firm provided its employees with more generous schemes than legally required. Take, as an example, (a)-1 in Table 2; Regulations on schemes for child care leave. Since child care leave is legally compulsory, two points were given to a firm that had relevant terms of employment, but none to a firm that did not have such terms. Even a firm failing to gain points in this subject cannot refuse a request guaranteed under law, from an employee for child care leave. However, points were not given to such an establishment because it was assumed that it might be difficult for employees to take child care leave without viable arrangements based on terms of employment. For family care leave, because at the time of the survey in 1996 enterprises needed only to endeavor to provide it, points were not given where there was no practice or scheme. One point was given where provision was made, and two points where a company had relevant employment terms. The comprehensive indices range from zero to 34 points. Of the total 34, eight points are allocated to measures concerning schemes for child care leave, 15 points to measures to assist employees to reconcile the demands of work with child care, and 11 points to measures related to family care leave (including a scheme for care leave for family members).
Table 3 presents the percentage of enterprises that were given no points, and the average points of the comprehensive indices, by company size and industry. The following features are clear from the table.
First, in terms of aggregate points, the comprehensive index ranged between zero and 28 and averaged a low level of 3.3.
Second, the low average of the index is attributable to the large number of enterprises with zero points. Such enterprises account for 51.3 percent of the whole, which means that more than half of the respondents had no family-friendly policies apart from those legally required.
Third, the comprehensive indices show that the differential among different-sized enterprises was substantial, with the larger firms providing the more generous measures. The difference between enterprises with 500 or more employees and those with fewer than 500 was particularly significant. Although the data are not documented here, 25.4 percent, or one fourth of all enterprises with 500 or more employees, gained 16 or more points of the comprehensive indices.
Fourth, by industry, adoption of family-friendly policies was fairly common in such categories as electricity, gas, thermal supply, water, and financing and insurance, whereas the construction, mining, and manufacturing industries fell behind.
In summary, at the time of the survey, when child care leave was legally mandatory and family care leave was a duty for enterprises to endeavor to fulfill, only about half the enterprises surveyed had family-friendly policies more generous than legally required. In addition, a wide variation in the indices was found among different sizes of enterprises and among different industries.
The comprehensive indices were calculated according to the presence or absence of the schemes in question, although the introduction of such schemes may not necessarily mean that they are taken advantage of in practice. Thus, it might be possible to incorporate in the comprehensive indices points associated with whether or not the schemes are actually used. It is possible that the inclusion of such points could increase the indices for enterprises with a large number of employees because of the higher probability of their having employees who use the schemes. However, the results of an analysis based on comprehensive indices, including the degree of utilization of the measures as well as the degree of their introduction, roughly demonstrate the same tendency as that gained from comprehensive indices based on the degree of introduction alone (see Women's Bureau, Ministry of Labour, ed., 1999).
Finally, schemes for child care and family care leave are now mandatory by law, although the actual utilization of the schemes relies, essentially, on whether or not company regulations concerning the leave exist. Enterprises with such regulations have a higher rate of utilization than those without any, even where the establishment sizes are equal (Sato, 1999). Many of the enterprises with company regulations on child care and family care leave are also, in other ways, making efforts to help their employees harmonize family life with work, for instance, through the adoption of other family-friendly policies.
4.0 Future Tasks
In Japan, child care and family care leave have been established as employees' rights under the Child Care and Family Care Leave Law, although the following should also be mentioned as future tasks for family-friendly policies.
First, although the measures are intended for both men and women, the actual workers who make use of child care and family care leave are, in both cases, disproportionately women. It will be a future task to discover why few male workers take advantage of the schemes and then encourage them to do so. For this purpose, it will probably be effective, for example, to hold seminars to promote the concept of a new role as father among male workers.
Second, the degree of understanding of the need for family-friendly policies varies widely among managers, and respecting the harmonization of family and working lives is not, thus far, commonly accepted at the managerial level. At some workplaces, this creates an atmosphere such that workers find it awkward to ask for leave. The outlook of such workers will need to be changed.
Third, some family-friendly measures in force abroad are not yet applicable to Japan (Lewis and Lewis, 1996). Job sharing and term-time working, for example, have not been introduced at all in Japan. It will be necessary to consider the possibility of adopting such measures.
Fourth, there are as yet no practical scholarly studies examining the effects on company management of the support for reconciling the demands of work and family life. A gradual accumulation of such practical studies must be achieved in the future.
Fifth, it is necessary not only to adopt family-friendly policies, but to establish firmly in business management, and in human resources management, respect for the need to balance work and home. Possible challenges are to give up beliefs such as seeing long working hours as a synonym for productivity or loyalty to the firm, or acceptance of multiple careers as an alternative to a single full-time career. In this sense, the target will be to achieve diversity management, where workers with varying needs and values are accepted equally and put to use.
Finally, it is essential, together with the enrichment of family-friendly policies, to provide the conditions for equal opportunity of employment for men and women so that women will not be restricted to fixed spheres of work and career paths(4).
|(1)||Family-friendly firms must meet the following four criteria, set by the Ministry of Labour, to receive awards: (1) the terms of employment include schemes for child care and family care leave that are more generous than legally required, and the schemes are actually being use by employees; (2) the firm offers schemes (such as flextime, a scheme for shorter working hours, or a home-based work system) enabling its employees to explore a flexible working style, taking into consideration the balance between work and family, and the schemes are used by its employees; (3) the firm offers various other measures making it possible for its employees to strike a balance between work and family life (such as a nursery in the enterprise or financial support for the costs of child care and family care services), and the schemes are being used by its employees; and (4) the prevailing atmosphere in the firm already makes it easy for its employees to harmonize work with family life.|
The ministry offers the following awards: The Ministry of Labour's Good Company Award, a Labour Minister's Award for Effort, and an Award of the Head of the Women's and Young Workers' Office. The Good Company Award for fiscal 1999 went to Benesse Corporation (education and publishing).
|(2)||This is based on a company survey of female workers. To the question as to whether your company has established certain schemes to help make working life compatible with family life, thus promoting female workers' full capabilities, 16.6 percent of surveyed firms answered in the affirmative (64.0% of companies with 5,000 or more employees), whereas 14.9 percent (73.0% of companies with 5,000 or more employees) responded not at the moment, but planning to do so (Women's Bureau, the Ministry of Labour, 1999b). According to the results of this survey, the number of companies that will carry out family-friendly policies seems likely to increase. The survey was conducted in January 1999, and was aimed at private firms with 30 or more employees at their head offices.|
|(3)||In April 1992, child care leave became mandatory for enterprises with more than 30 employees, and mandatory for all enterprises in April 1995. On the other hand, family care leave became mandatory in April 1999. When an employee takes child care leave, the employee's share of the portion of social security premiums designated for health insurance and welfare pension insurance is exempted. Also, an employee does not receive a salary while on child care and family care leave, but is paid 25 percent of the wages he or she earned before taking leave from employment insurance.|
|(4)||The revised Equal Employment Opportunity Law came into effect in April 1999. The previous version of the law prohibited sexual discrimination against females only in terms of mandatory retiring age, retirement and dismissal. It also stipulated a duty to endeavor to do away with sexual discrimination with respect to recruitment and hiring, assignment and promotion, training and education, and fringe benefits. From the time the law was revised, discrimination in these latter areas has been prohibited and subject to penalties. In addition, positive action by companies to further the utilization of female workers was prescribed.|
|Galin||sky, E., Friedman, D.E. and Hernandez, C.A. (eds.). The Corporate Reference Guide to Work-Family Programs. New York, NY: Families and Work Institute, 1991.|
|Lewi||s S. and Lewis, J., (eds.). The Work-Family Challenge: Rethinking Employment. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1996.|
|Maki||ta, Tetsuo and Ida, Mieko. Kakudaisuru Danjoby-od-o Shik-o, Seiji Fushin, Genzai Shik-o: Jikeiretsu Ch-osa 'Nihonjin no Ishiki' ni Miru Shihan Seiki (Growing Acceptance of Sexual Equality, Mistrust of Politics and Living Only in the Present: A Quarter Century of Periodical Surveys on Japanese Value Orientation). Hoso Kenkyu to Chosa (The NHK Monthly Report on Broadcast Research): 49 (1999).|
|Sato,||Hiroki. Jigyosho Kibo Betsu ni Mita Ikuji to Shigoto no Ry-oritsu Shiensaku (Company Policies for Reconciliation of the Demands of Child Care and Work, by Size of Enterprise). Katei ni Yasashii Kigyo Kenkyu-kai Hokokusho (Report of the 'family-friendly firms' workshop): 1999 Special issue, Women at Work Association.|
|Wom||en's Bureau, the Ministry of Labour. Joshi Koyo Kanri Kihon Chosa Kekka Hokokusho (Report on the Results of the 1996 Survey on Women Workers' Employment Management). Women's Bureau (Fujin-kyoku) Investigation Paper No. 28, (not for sale), 1997.|
|Wom||en's Bureau, the Ministry of Labour (ed.). Family-friendly Kigyo wo Mezashite (Towards 'Family-friendly Firms'). Printing Bureau, the Ministry of Finance, 1999a.|
|Wom||en's Bureau, the Ministry of Labour. Joshi Koyo Kanri Kihon Chosa Kekka Hokokusho (Report on the Results of the 1998 Survey on Women Workers' Employment Management), Women's Bureau (Josei-kyoku) Investigation Paper No. 4, (not for sale), 1999b.|
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