Family in Japanese Society (Section2)


Nikkei’s Senior Writer, Hiroko Tsujimoto, and the writer in Nikkei office.

The marriage rate has declined in Japan in recent years. I was curious to find the reasons for the decline and asked Ms. Tsujimoto to explain.
Elaborating on the reasons for the low marriage rate in today’s Japan, the editor of Nikkei said, young people’s income is low. In fact, the income of the husband alone is not enough to run the family; hence, young people prefer to avoid marriage. In other words, the main hurdles in the way of young people’s marriage is economic. This is why the rate of marriage is higher among permanent employees compared to part-time workers.
When you are worried about your future, you cannot marry. Therefore, we must improve the working environment for both boys and girls to remove any worry about their future.
What I understood through my discussion with Ms. Tsujimoto was that traditions are still strong in Japanese society for, she said, although the youth may not marry, we don’t have partnership without marriage. Young people either marry or not.
There are some other interesting facts about Japanese society, which were explained by Ms. Tsujimoto.

More Japanese women are interested in working.
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Making life easier for working moms. Group activity: Yukari Horie, founder of work-life balance consultancy Arrow Arrow,hosts a career-design workshop.
ARROW ARROW/THE JAPAN TIMES

For instance, she said, apparently the main obstacle to marriage is economic, not a change in values. If the people who have not yet married get married, the birthrate will increase to 1.8, she said.
She also added that one of the reasons for the decline in the rate of marriage is that the number of young people has also declined.
However, regarding the number of marriages, she said, 226,198 marriages, and 63,596 divorce were registered in 2015. According to the existing statistics the number of divorces is declining. However, she said differences in values the couples abide by is one of the main reasons for divorce in our society.
“In our society, due to economic problems, many people want to marry, but they cannot; many people want children, but they cannot. We must solve these problems.”
On the probable adverse effects of working women on their family, she said, in fact we want to create a balance between a healthy family and healthy employment environment and conditions. But one of the problems of our society is long working hours. So, even if they put their kids in the childcare centers, this problem exists. This is why, a law in Japan stipulates that mothers having small kids are allowed to work for fewer hours without much deduction of their wages. This way they can work and look after the children. The law applies both to the private and public sectors.
She said, in Japan traditionally it is women who look after kids, but more recently men, too, show interest in taking care of their children. There are also other supportive laws, including the delivery leave. According to this law, mothers are entitled to maternity leave (six weeks before delivery; and eight weeks after delivery). They are also entitled to one year nursing leave. During the nursing leave, employment insurance company pays part of their salaries. She added, 80 percent of women use this leave. Fathers are also entitled to one year parental leave. She added, 80 percent of women use the maternity leave.
“Ironically,” she said, “Japanese men are not inclined to apply for leave before or after the delivery of their wives, because it is natural for them to work hard, and when someone does not work in our society, it is frowned upon.” Indeed, the government has focused on several measures to encourage women to work including, “The construction of childcare centers; reduction of working hours; preparation of the working environment for less work; more flexibility, and allowing work from home.”
This system serves two purposes, she said: Since Japan has a great aged population, when the youth work, they must look after their parents as well. On the other hand, those who have kids, they too must look after their children. Hence, both the aged and the kids are looked after, while the workforce is also preserved.
On the success of the said policies, she said, the move has a slow pace, hence, we are far away from our goals. The number of childcare centers is limited, and the pace of the working style reforms is slow.
However, the government has focused on these policies because they are important. We must increase our efforts.
Asked if there is any limitation on the number of children a couple can have, she said the government does not interfere. It is up to the couples to decide.
On the family structure, she said, today, most families are nuclear ones, but attempts are made at encouraging three generations of a family to live together, or live near each other. In other words, the government is trying to improve the environment enabling three generations of a family to live under one roof, or near each other for mutual assistance in childcare. We are following this policy very cautiously. You know, she said, today, grandparents usually live far away from their children and grandchildren; some of them still work, some may need protection.Cases vary.
On the firmness of the family foundation, she said, “Let me tell you that the value of having a family has not undergone major changes in Japanese society. But forms have changed; women joined the market and families became nuclear. However, love of parents and children is still strong and has not changed.”
In 1970s, the typical Japanese family model consisted of a working husband and a housewife, who bore children. Today, we have different types of families because the society has changed. There are also different viewpoints about the family system; some argue that the past family system was good and want to return to the past.
Those who have not married up to the age of 50 will not marry anymore. Out of every five men in Japan, one is such. The population of men is greater than of that of women, she said.

Japan improves ‘after school’ care for children, allowing more women to work.
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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addresses a panel of intellectuals and Cabinet members at his office during their first meeting to tackle Japan’s aging population and low birthrate.
KYODO/THE JAPAN TIMES

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