Not so happy Mother’s Day

Once the advertising displays from last Sunday’s Mother’s Day were taken down, the grim reality of being a mother in Japan returned. Over the last year, Japan slipped a rank in the annual Mothers’ Index ranking of best and worst places to be a mother, according to the international nongovernmental organization, Save the Children.

Japan ranked toward the bottom of developed countries — merely 31st of 176 countries.

Though mothers are culturally revered in Japan, they have lower levels of education, political participation and income than in most other developed countries.

The ratio of female to male income is just 45 percent, the lowest among developed countries examined in the index. That connects in part to the fewer years of formal schooling Japanese women have than women from countries of equal economic status.

That means Japanese mothers, whether they work inside or outside the home, have less education and less income than any other developed country in the world.

The discrepancy between Japan’s economic status and the status of Japanese mothers is vast.

Japan is also relatively low in pre-primary enrollment, coming in somewhere in the middle of developed countries. Most other countries give longer maternity leave than Japan’s average 14 weeks and pay more than Japan’s 67 percent of wages to women while they care for their newborn infants.

The medical care in Japan is better than in many countries, but the support by companies and the central government should be sufficient to ensure that mothers have sufficient financial support during the first months after childbirth as well as a comfortable return to the workplace when they are ready.

Many Japanese mothers may also have needed more planning for their parenthood. The percentage of women using modern contraception in Japan is surprisingly low. Japan ranks fifth from the bottom of the top 43 developed countries.

Better access, education and expectations about using contraception would allow women to control their pregnancies and plan the economic security of their families.

Every day, 800 women around the world die during pregnancy or childbirth. Japan has overcome the worst of those kinds of problems, but still has a long way to go before the country can truly take pride in the conditions for its mothers. Japan, to its credit, remains the 10th-biggest donor for the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health program of the United Nations around the world, but much remains to be done at home, too.

Because mothers are so important in the world, the annual report on mothers is really a report on the status of every country in the world. Japan should heed the results of the report and work to make Mother’s Day a real cause for celebration.

  • Rey Waters

    My Japanese wife does not agree at all with this editorial. She says that your statistical information is incorrect. Japanese women are given on average almost a year off for maternity leave, have one of the post graduate highest educational levels in the world and in the high income professions, i.e.; high tech they are close to male counterparts in total compensation. She should know since she took off twice after having children and is a software developer with an engineering degree, whose income was above the average in her profession. (She had many men reporting to her in both a Japanese High Tech company and an international bank) Mothers in Japan have a lot to be Happy about in that the male dominate society has finally recognized female contributions and the glass ceiling is being reached by in many large Japanese corporations. Her only complaint about being a Japanese mother is that the men do not help with raising their children.

    Rey Waters, reywatwrite@yahoo.com

    • Upholstery_man

      That’s great that your wife has a good job and respect from her male colleagues, but I can’t see how her situation means these statistics are wrong. Do you have alternate studies/surveys that can help prove your point?

      • Rey Waters

        Thanks for your response, you have just given me a good idea to perform an alternate study. I will be moving to Japan before year end. I already know several of my wife’s friends who have similar stories. This will be fun using the statics I learned in college. Thanks. Rey

  • http://getironic.blogspot.com/ getironic

    “Though mothers are culturally revered in Japan, they have lower levels of education, political participation and income than in most other developed countries.”

    We all make choices. And they chose to be mothers and have particular beliefs that resulted in other choices about how much time (and drive) they had to pursue education and politics. How is that anyone else’s problem?

    Having sex can result in babies. Unless you were raped, it’s no “accident” at all. And where is it written that you “have to have a baby.”? And where is it written that other people are morally obligated to sympathize with/ economically support those kinds of choices? By what right can they claim such obligations? If you’re not prepared, you shouldn’t be having babies. It’s that simple. If you’re really of the mindset that people can’t handle their own bodies, a licence to procreate is preferable making the choices of individual mothers everyone else’s responsibility.

    “The support by companies and the central government should be sufficient to ensure that mothers have sufficient financial support during the first months after childbirth as well as a comfortable return to the workplace when they are ready.”

    Or how about they take responsibility for their own choices and save enough money to actually afford a kid? Otherwise, maybe the number of children she can afford is zero.

    You know, I would really like to have a Ferrari, but that would cost me $230,000: about the same amount it costs to raise a child. Where is the “financial support” from “companies and central government” for fulfilling my dreams? Why is it only a mother’s dreams that get supported? Where’s the time off from work so I can slave under the hood to keep my precious baby in mint condition? Where is the help for my values or your values? Why are hers unequally granted favor?

    And how much more lazy, uneducated and politically inactive might I become, if I knew that other people were *obliged* to help me? That money was coming regardless of how hard I worked? That money was coming; leeched out of the money those people were saving for their particular dreams, in order to pay for her particular dream. Seems like “we” need less help for mothers, not more: as more help is going to bring more of the same.

    Bottom line is: you work for your kid, and that’s your business. I’ll work for my car, and that’s my business. Good luck.

    • hana

      “You know, I would really like to have a Ferrari, but that would cost me $230,000: about the same amount it costs to raise a child. Where is the “financial support” from “companies and central government” for fulfilling my dreams?”

      It’s because your Ferrari won’t make money and pay tax.