Want to have a baby? You'll have to wait your turn

World

Want to have a baby? You'll have to wait your turn

The director at a Japanese childcare centre decides the order in which workers get married or become pregnant

Danielle Demetriou

A Japanese worker has been reprimanded by her boss for “selfishly breaking the rules” after she became pregnant before it was her “turn”.
The woman was working at a private childcare centre in Aichi prefecture, north Japan, when she found out she was pregnant.
However, the timing reportedly clashed with “shifts” drawn by the childcare centre director, which listed when female staff were allowed to marry and have children.
The plight of the woman, who has not been identified, highlights the unsettling practice of some Japanese companies dictating when female staff are allowed to marry and have children, depending on their level of seniority.Her experiences came to light after her husband, aged 28, wrote a letter outlining their plight to Mainich Shimbun, one of Japan’s leading newspapers.
Describing how his wife felt “glum and anxious” after finding out she was pregnant, the husband wrote: “The director at the childcare centre where she works had determined the order in which workers could get married or pregnant, and apparently there was an unspoken rule that one must not take their ‘turn’ before a senior staff member ... ”
The couple formally met with the director to apologise about the pregnancy in person, but the husband claimed that his wife has since been “chided” for “selfishly” breaking the rules of the childcare centre.
He added: “Childcare providers sacrifice their own children to care for the children of others. It is a noble profession that nurtures children who will forge the future of this country.“I respect my wife for her commitment to her profession, and continue to encourage her. The conditions of those working to nurture and care for children are evidence of a backward country.”
The case has prompted a flood of support in Japan, a nation famed for both its shrinking birth rate and a chronic shortage of public childcare establishments.
Many commentators were critical of the nursery, claiming such rules are a violation of human rights – although some were sympathetic to the challenges faced by childcare centres owing to widespread staffing shortages.Japanese women have long had a tough time in the workplace, due to widespread gender discrimination, with the nation slipping to 114th place out of 144 countries in last year’s World Economic Forum global gender equality rankings.
Maternity harassment – known as “matahara” in Japan – is also a major problem, with a 2015 government survey revealing that half of the nation’s working women suffered some kind of harassment after becoming pregnant, with one in five dismissed from their job.
The practice of telling female employees exactly when they are allowed to have children – and when they cannot – is reportedly not confined to the childcare industry in Japan.Another woman, aged 26, from Tokyo also reportedly spoke out about how a female supervisor at a cosmetics-related company told her she would not be allowed to have a child until she was about 35.
She reportedly received a document detailing childbirth and childrearing schedules which was circulated among 22 female colleagues via email, with the warning: “Selfish behaviour will be subject to punishment.”
The married woman, who has fertility issues, told Mainichi Shimbun: “I already have trouble getting pregnant. How are they going to take responsibility if I put off getting pregnant and lose my chances to have children altogether?”
– © The Daily Telegraph

This article is reserved for Sunday Times Daily subscribers.
A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times Daily content.

Sunday Times Daily

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems?
Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.