Vol.40-No.7 July 1, 2001
Many Japanese subscribe to the view that mothers should devote themselves to looking after their children until they reach the age of 3. The former Ministry of Health and Welfare, however, was of the opinion that there were no reasonable grounds for such a position. Indeed, based on the ministry's views, measures are currently being implemented so that men and women will have equal opportunities to participate fully in their society. Nevertheless, the view that women should have a special responsibility for the rearing of young children is still held by some Japanese.To clarify the situation, a research group at the National Institute of Neuroscience carried out a follow-up survey of mothers and children from birth until the age of 15. Their aim was to challenge the proposition that the employment of mothers during the early stages of their children's development (i.e., from birth until 3 years old) induces problematic behavior in children.
With the cooperation of 1,260 mothers with children born between August 1984 and February 1986, the researchers tracked the behavior of the children at 1 month, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, 6 years, 9 years, 11 years, and 15 years of age. The researchers managed to follow 270 mothers and their children over the entire 15-year period. Each family surveyed was questioned at each stage about their child's ability to pay attention, aggression, anti-social attitudes, depressio and other symptoms of autism and anxiety. One-fourth of the mothers surveyed had resumed work before their children had reached the age of 3. Comparing their children with the children of mothers who did not return to the labor force before their children reached 3 years old, the researchers found fewer problems among the former group as the children reached the age of 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, and 6 years. For the older ages, the difference narrowed between the two groups.The research group concluded that their findings were similar to those produced by an American study of some 2,000 children up to the age of 12.
However, a survey financed by the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. which monitored 1,364 infants and children for 10 years came to an opposite conclusion. That study showed that 17 percent of children between the ages of 3 months and 54 months who had been taken care of at nurseries for 30 hours or more per week were aggressive, whereas this was the case for less than six percent of children in the same age group who were taken care of at nurseries for 10 hours or less per week. The possible effects of the mothers' employment on the development of their children seem likely to draw continued attention in Japan.
It is becoming common to look for jobs on the Internet. On April 1, 2001 regulations were relaxed for firms that used the Internet for job placements.Until the early 1990s, university students generally obtained information about employment and careers from magazines which specialized in such information. By completing and sending a questionnaire included in a magazine, designated firms would send them a company brochure. From the mid-1990s, these magazines began to set up homepages, and then initiated a range of recruitment activities through the Internet. According to a survey conducted in June 2000 by Recruit Co., Ltd. a major distributor of job information, two-thirds of university students used e-mail every day to enhance their own employment prospects, and roughly half of them browsed websites every day.
Students also use Internet bulletin boards to exchange information and opinions on how particular companies conduct their interviews, how and when they start to give informal assurances of employment to prospective graduates, and so on. Some keep diaries on their own homepages, describing their job-hunting activities. In such ways, young job seekers find out about the real intentions of the firms they consider for employment.Quite a few websites now provide information about switching jobs. In March 2001, NEC's Biglobe comprehensive website (www.biglobe.ne.jp), expanded its job information pages to include information on vacancies, personnel introductions, dispatching, and opportunities for studying abroad. The site includes more than 60,000 pieces of information obtained from Recruit and 13 other associated companies.
Saitama Prefecture launched its own job search website (www.shigoto.pref.saitama.jp/) in June 2000, in advance of a job-search website which is to be jointly managed by the government and the private sector this summer (see the March 2001 issue of the Japan Labor Bulletin). The website maintains a permanent display of 2,000 to 4,000 job vacancies which the prefecture collected, together with some 20,000 vacancies released by five personnel-dispatching and job-placement agencies which have contracts with Saitama Prefecture. At Recruit's site (www.career2.recruitnavi.com/), some 5,500 vacancies can be investigated in terms of job category, job experience and knowledge required, location, and other attributes. The same website provides a job information mailing service for people who have registered with the website and specified a list of desirable vacancies beforehand. Some 270,000 people were enrolled at the end of March 2001.In line with these trends, regulations concerning job placement businesses using the Internet were relaxed on April 1, 2001. (Some of the rules for implementing the Employment Security Law were revised, and came into effect on April 1, 2001.)
Since simply publishing information about job vacancies and job seekers on the Internet is not identical to making a job placement as defined by the law, such publishing does not require any legal procedures or permission. However, receiving information about job vacancies and job seekers, and arranging for employment agreements between firms looking for workers and job seekers is defined as making a job placement and is subject to legal restrictions. Until recently, job placement agencies have been required to provide job seekers in writing with information such as working conditions, the scope of duties, etc. Now they are able to provide such information in an e-mail format. The revision of the law also scrapped regulations concerning the minimum floor space of job placement agencies in cases where such agencies use the Internet to allocate jobs. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare is hoping that the revision of the law will encourage placement agencies that use the Internet.
A system involving child-care leave is becoming better organized, and a greater number of women are in fact taking such leave. However, while the general view is that men should also take child-care leave, few men are actually doing so.At present, regular employees are allowed, by law, to take child-care leave from the time a baby is born until the child is 1 year old. Since April 1, 1995, the law has covered all employees, regardless of the size of their firm. However, the law does not provide for the payment of wages during leave, leaving this area to negotiations between labor and management, although there are provisions for the employment insurance system to subsidize child-care leave. On January 1, 2001 the subsidy was raised, and workers on such leave are now granted, in accordance with the duration of the leave, 30 percent of the wages that he or she previously received. Those who have returned to the workplace are subsidized to the extent of 10 percent of their wages as an allowance for returning from child-care leave. The previous rates were 25 percent and five percent, respectively.
In October 1999 the Ministry of Labour (now the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare) conducted the Basic Survey on the Employment of Women. The survey was sent to 9,885 private business establishments with five or more regular employees. Usable replies were returned by 6,990 establishments.According to the findings of the survey, 56.4 percent of female workers who gave birth during fiscal 1998 took child-care leave. These women were at 76.3 percent of the establishments with 500 or more regular employees, and at 71.4 percent of the firms with 100 to 499 regular employees. Sixty-four percent of females at firms with a child-care leave scheme (53.5% of all establishments surveyed with five or more regular employees) took such leave, 14.9 percent more in the 1996 survey. However, only 0.42 percent of male employees whose spouses gave birth during the survey period took child-care leave.
A survey of 3,200 people with children from newborns to 15 year olds (with 877 usable replies) conducted in January and February 2001 by the Foundation for Children's Future an associated organization of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare revealed that 65 percent of women and 51 percent of men agreed in general that male employees should be able to take child-care leave. Among those from 30 to 34 years old, 70 percent and 65 percent were of the same opinion. However, when asked whether or not they would actually take such leave, a mere seven percent of the male respondents said they would definitely take child-care leave if they had the occasion; 36 percent replied that they would like to take the leave but would in fact find it difficult to do so; and another 30 percent answered that they did not intend to take such leave and in any case could not take the leave. As for female respondents, only 15 percent of women surveyed answered that they would like their husbands to take child-care leave if the occasion arose. The highest proportion, 37 percent, said that they would like their husbands to take the leave, but that that would in fact be difficult. Another 25 percent answered they had no intention to ask their husbands to take the leave and that it would in any case be impossible for him to take the leave.Among those in the last two categories (who would find it difficult to take such leave), there was a slight difference between men and women in terms of the reasons given. Men attributed the difficulty to the workplace and other job-related matters, citing pressures at work and responsibilities at the workplace (67%), reduction in salary, which would affect the household income (58%), and difficulty in obtaining understanding at the workplace (48%). On the other hand, women cited reduction in salary, which would affect the household income (62%), followed by pressures at work and responsibilities at the workplace (55%), and difficulty in obtaining understanding at the workplace (48%).
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