Japanese Women’s Happiness: Is it not Marriage anymore?

Do Japanese people not want to get married?

A decreasing birthrate and aging population are few of the reasons why people tend to marry later or do not get married at all. This is now a serious social problem in Japan. According to “Population Projection for Japan”: 2011(National Institute of Population and Social Security Research), nine out of ten young Japanese people have a desire for marriage but not everyone can get married these days.

The data also demonstrates that the lifetime non-marriage rate of women born in 1995 is 20.1% which increased from 9.4% in 1960. In fact, it is also predicted that one of three women born in 1995 does not have a child throughout her whole life. Whether one has a family or remains single is a free choice for each person. However, it is regrettable just because of one’s lack of knowledge and insufficient life planning that one ends up being single

Toko Shirakawa, a journalist who publishes books on declining birthrate, describes the modern society as “the era without conveyer” in her book The Text of Bear and Work.

When the college students’ mothers were young, there was a social path such as “employment, marriage, and child birth” set for them in the society like a conveyor. However nowadays, they do not have any conveyors. She mentions the era where everyone can be a permanent employee ended. As well as the age of women who want to return to their jobs is getting younger and younger because of the economic difficulties. She picks up five other reasons.

 

First one is the risk of changing jobs. Women who end up doing unwilling jobs try to change their workplaces. Until they are finished with their job-changes, thinking about marriage is out of the question.

Second one is the less chance of finding their partners. There was a time when many people got married with people in the workplace. Though, this type of marriage is decreasing as it is a hard time for even recent graduates to find jobs. Work places are no longer the environment to find a partner and arranged marriage including intervention by parents became rare. Therefore, Ms. Shirakawa emphasizes that modern women should not be passive towards love. They cannot find their partners just by going back and forth between their house and workplace.  They must go to new places, meet new people and actively search for their partner.

Third one is nulliparity. While many women used to quit their jobs after getting married, now men and women both continue their work after giving birth. It is not difficult to understand why many women have to postpone or lose their opportunities to have children because of the overload of work that they have to accomplish.

Fourth reason is the high rate of divorce. One out of three couples has a divorce now. Marriage does not mean modern women’s assurance is guaranteed. It is important for women to keep working to get true assurance.

Last but not least, the decline of men’s revenue and the increase of turnover rate affect women’s value. Due to the continuing serious economic situations in Japan, the lifestyle of only men working is becoming a high risk.

Based on these reasons, Ms. Shirakawa states there is no longer a “conveyer in women’s life, work, marriage and giving birth.”

There are three big obstacles which women have to overcome by themselves while they are young. The demand of the annual income of their future partner that women (25~34years old) living in Tokyo is more than 6 million yen while in reality,  only 5.7% of men earns that amount of money. In addition, 60% of single men are not confident in supporting their family only by their income, so they want their future wives to continue working after marriage. Ms. Shirakawa strongly insists that at first a woman must be able to earn her own living in order to get married and have a family. In the present society in Japan, having a job will lead women to be a wife and mother. In other words, it means that women can pursue their happiness just the way they want it to be

Then in a time without having conveyors which leads people to life stages job, marriage and childbirth, how can we make our own life plan?  In addition to that, young people do not have a real role model from the viewpoint of career planning.  It means that their parents’ career plans will be out of use for the youth. Under these circumstances, what is important to make a good life plan?

There is a student group “mamma”, which aims to “create a society where female university students can safely become mothers in the next five years”.  The group implements a plan called “the studying abroad to households program” to provide female students an opportunity to think about work and career.

Female students have a one day experience of the real life (“the studying abroad to households program “) at a home where the mother actively manages her work and child care. The goal of this program for the participant is to balance their own work and family life in the future.  Actually, almost all of the homes that corporate with “mamma” are two-income families. This time, Moe Noguchi experienced “the studying abroad to households program” at the Wakasugi family’s house on February 28, 2015.

Nana Wakasugi, the mother of the family worked at the Mercedes-Benz Japan, Inc. after graduating the department of political science in Keio University.  After working there for approximately eight years, she acquired a MBA at Hitotsubashi University graduate school.  Now she works in HR Leadership Development Program of Amazon Japan from September, 2014.  Not only is she a hard worker, but also she is the perfect role model of taking care of her two children (eldest daughter (5 years old) eldest son (nine months)).

This experience is very helpful in imagining a concrete home life and actually describing one’s own life plan. Though this is just an example of one family, “studying abroad” to various families enables us to grasp the ideal way to balance work, family life and having children by getting to know a variety of lifestyles.  In fact, Moe Noguchi, who experienced “studying abroad” at the Wakasugi family, realized the importance of the surrounding environment the wife, of course including her life partner.  Nana Wakasugi’s husband has full understanding towards her work and actively takes part in the housework, such as cooking and doing the laundry.  Though Nana Wakasugi went on a business trip to the United States on the next day of the day of “studying abroad program “, there is always someone to rely on.  If both of them are very busy, her husband’s parents take care of their children instead. This support system can be possible because she got married just after graduating university and gave birth shortly after that, which means that their parents are young enough to take care of their children. Nana Wakasugi happily told us how her life planning went well unexpectedly.  Just like the secret key to success of it.

Though marriage and giving birth are the important essence in one’s life in the same way as having a career, there is less opportunity to get the hang of it in advance.  This seems unfair as there are many chances to know about having a long-time career such as company internships and meeting working adults. In 2014, Hinae Niori launched “mamma” from the idea that  young people should have the opportunities like company internships, in order to let female students learn in advance about career, marriage and raising children.

Miss. Niori is a junior in Keio University.  She said that in order to make the right choice in her life, it is meaningful to interact with many people and choose an ideal lifestyle. To raise the recognition of “mamma” to offer a variety of experience to female students, she actively uses media and give lectures at many places.

We have introduced two leading women Toko Shirakawa, Hinae Niori, who tackle with problems of declining birth rate in Japan. Finally, we focus on what university students think of the tendency of women to marry later or remain single. A survey of marriage, having babies and work-life balance was conducted. Four male and female Keio University students were the interviewees and the aim here was to capture their “ideal image” of marriage and discover the disparity between the ideal and the reality.

According to this survey, all participants showed their desire to get married and believe that they are able to get married in the future.  Although the tendency to marry later or remain single is a serious social problem, they were feeling optimistic towards their future. In addition, most of them replied that they wanted to get married because they dream of having a baby.  From that point, it is clear that there is a close relationship between marriage and having babies. Then why is the birthrate declining rapidly?  We assume that there is some situation where young people cannot get married or have babies although they really wish to.  According to the result of this inquiry, it became clear that there is big difference of outlook between men and women about female returning to workplaces after giving birth.

For example, while all female respondents wanted to continue working, three men opposed.  He explained that he wants women to concentrate on childcare, especially after childbirth.  The student also mentioned that men are likely to get busy in the future so they cannot help with the childcare.  Furthermore, he said that he has enough confidence to support the family just with his income.  On the other hand, female respondents feel the importance of working togather. In these differences, we felt the change of female’s point of view because of the social advancement of women in recent years and the obscure view of female by men who cannot keep up with the change.  This difference of outlook on life leads to non-marriage and late marriage problem.  As the evidence to support this, there is a shocking gap between men and women about ideal balance of housework sharing.  Except for one person who recommended the female continue working, the male sides expected the women to do 80% of the housework which is 4 times percentage of men. Nevertheless on the assumption that all female respondents think people having more time to do housework should do so, two respondents expect men to do 40% that is the amount twice the male sides expect.  Although the support between husband and wife is the most essential thing for childbirth and childcare, it is clear that men and women will likely have a difficult time to cooperate.  This is why it is important to share each other’s ideal image of life.

However, what we want to emphasize here is that this is a limited data, and the results cannot be generalized. The interviewees are born in rather rich household, go to the highly educated university. Therefore men tend to be optimistic and confident about  their future, and women wish to find a job and continue their work after giving birth.  The results are not  the “real voices of college students,” but we will refer to the result as one of the cases and outlooks on life of students in Keio University.

What should women do to get all, a career and marriage and having children?

Simple as it is, but encounter a life partner who has similar ideal image of marriage, and finish one’s life planning before marriage.   Thus one will not make mistakes or regret his decisions. For demanding girls who want all kinds of happiness ‘career, marriage and raising children, future husbands who want to create a happy two-income family, why not start making a “Life Plan”?

 

Written by Megumi Sato, Hiroka Inomata, Sayaka Kato, Yamaha Sato, Mayu Hamada,Keigo Matsumoto, and Moe Noguchi

Edited by Moe Noguchi

Japanese version


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Comments

  1. 曽根 says:

    大卒でしかも高学歴な人を対象にして書かれた記事なのかなーと感じた。若年結婚した高卒の人の話なども聞いてみたい。
    少子高齢化、出生率の低下が問題になっているが、それを改善するために行政の側が施している政策については記事の中でほとんど言及されていなかった。これこそまさに日本で蔓延る「自己責任論」の象徴ではないのか。行政が女性の社会進出を手助けするために積極的に働きかけをしない限りこの問題は解決しないだろう。各個人の努力だけでは限界がある。