Foreign women also face ‘maternity harassment’

Laws protect working women before and after childbirth but awareness is far from universal


Special To The Japan Times

In line with Japan’s child-care leave law, Aimee took a year off from her job as a business coach when her son was born last year. Having recently secured a place for her son at a public day-care center, she was looking forward to returning to work. On her first day back, however, Aimee’s boss called her into his office and told her that her services were no longer required.

Considering that her boss had been cooperative in furnishing the proof-of-return-to-work documents she had needed to apply for her son’s day care, this came like a bolt out of the blue.

“He said he wasn’t confident that I could continue to be ‘a good staff member.’ What I gathered from the situation is that he had hired a new woman and he no longer needed me,” she says.

Aimee is a victim of what is known in Japanese as mata-hara, a word derived from “maternity harassment,” and which refers to discrimination in the workplace against women who are pregnant, on child-care leave or have returned to work after giving birth. While it can be a confusing and stressful time for Japanese women, the issues can be compounded for foreign women, who may not know where to turn.

“Of course, maternity harassment has always existed, but it wasn’t until the mass media picked up on the term that it became a buzzword, in the same way as seku-hara (sexual harassment) before it,” explains Yoko Yajima, a senior researcher with Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting Co., Ltd. Yajima, who specializes in dealing with diversity in the workplace, says that this media coverage has played a key role in spreading awareness and encouraging dialogue about the issues faced by mothers at work.

This is supported by the results of the second national survey on maternity harassment by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), released last month. Participants in the questionnaire were working women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Of those who were pregnant or already mothers, 1 in 4 reported having been a victim of maternity harassment. While this is almost the same result as last year’s survey, the percentage of women who reported knowledge of the term “maternity harassment” jumped from 20.5 percent to 62.3 percent this year.

Japan actually has relatively generous laws for new parents. Revised in 2010, the Child Care and Family Care Leave Law applies to both mothers and fathers, but the reality is that very few companies actively encourage men to take this time off, and thus parental leave is still seen very much as a women’s issue.

An expectant mother can take maternity leave comprising six weeks before her due date and eight weeks after giving birth, and can receive roughly two-thirds of her base salary during this time. When the maternity-leave period ends, she is eligible for child-care leave up until the child’s first birthday. There are also legal provisions in place to help women returning to the workplace after giving birth, including allowing mothers of children under 3 years of age to shorten their workday by up to two hours.

One major problem is that employees and employers alike are not always aware of the laws and how they apply in various cases.

“There is definitely an information gap when it comes to maternity and child-care leave entitlement,” says Yoshiko Motoki, director of the Equal Employment Office at the Tokyo Labor Bureau.

“Large companies have specialist human-resources personnel with detailed knowledge, but smaller companies or regional branch offices often don’t. Moreover, many women in Japan are part-time or contract workers and may think they aren’t covered by the provision, when in fact they usually are.”

Motoki adds that questions related to childbirth and child-care leave now make up the second-highest number of inquiries to her office, behind sexual harassment.

Some employers count on the fact that if they put too many obstacles in an employee’s path, she might eventually give up. This was the situation that Carlene faced after she became pregnant with her second child.

“I was already a working mother and had proved myself as a reliable and capable worker, so I didn’t expect problems,” she says.

However, after announcing her second pregnancy, one male manager repeatedly forced her to perform cleaning duties and manual labor — which were neither suitable for a pregnant woman nor part of her job description. “There was no violence or even direct aggression in my case, just daily put-downs which made me feel awful and unwanted.”

Despite this, Carlene was determined to return to her job, since her growing family needed the income. Several months before her child-care leave ended, she called her former office and reconfirmed her intention to come back when her baby turned 1 and entered day care. Repeated calls to her manager went unanswered, and as the weeks went by, Carlene became despondent.

“I really needed the job, but it was so disheartening to think they didn’t want me back,” she says.

Carlene finally got closure after calling the company’s head office and speaking with the human-resources department. Her proactive stance paid off when she was offered an alternative position at another location with the same company, which has turned out to suit her very well.

“I’m so glad I didn’t give up,” she says.

Contacting the relevant authorities can serve as a shot across the bows of a recalcitrant company, indicating that an employee is aware of their rights and will not tolerate any messing around.

Jenny travels around to various schools in her work as an assistant language teacher for a dispatch company.

“After announcing my pregnancy to the company, I asked for information on how to go about getting paid during my maternity and child-care leave,” she explains. “They told me they don’t deal with that and sent me to Hello Work.”

Hello Work is the friendly name given to the labor ministry’s network of employment service centers, which manage unemployment insurance benefits and help those seeking work find jobs. After consulting with her local branch, Jenny confirmed it was the company’s responsibility to file the paperwork for her payment. The company finally did so after she took her complaint to her union.

“I had to fight for about eight months in total to get what I deserved,” she says. “My advice is simple: Don’t give up, and know your rights.”

Sometimes, even those who should be on their side can unwittingly make it harder for working mothers. Katherine took along her infant daughter when she visited her local Hello Work for an orientation session she was required to attend before she could start receiving child-care leave payments. She tried to nurse her daughter discreetly when the baby started to fuss, but anxious not to disturb those around her, she then left the orientation room.

Katherine was taken aback when a staff member then pointed toward the women’s restroom, suggesting she should nurse the baby in a stall with a squat toilet.

In fact, Hello Work operates a national network of offices under the name Mother’s Hello Work aimed at parents of young children, and equipped with diaper-changing and nursing facilities and play areas for toddlers. Not only was Katherine upset about having to feed her baby in a toilet; she also says nobody told her about her local Mother’s Hello Work for future reference, even though there was an office close by.

According to Yajima at the Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting think tank, positive change starts at the big companies, where it is becoming commonplace for younger women to go back to their jobs after childbirth. There is, however, still a lack of women in senior management positions, and even fewer that have successfully managed to combine child-raising with a full-time career.

“We need such women to be mentors and role models for the younger generation,” Yajima argues.

On the flip side, Yajima notes that the current crop of men in top management roles often struggle to understand the needs of today’s working mothers.

“Their own wives probably off-ramped from the workforce upon marriage or giving birth to become full-time housewives,” she says, “in line with the usual model for motherhood in this country until quite recently.”

Tadao, a senior executive at a foreign-owned firm, agrees that middle-aged male managers face a learning curve. Career-minded Japanese women often gravitate to non-Japanese firms, where the corporate culture is seen to be more supportive of their efforts.

“We are committed to supporting employees raising children, but sometimes it can be difficult to accommodate everyone’s wishes,” Tadao explains. “For example, some positions require off-site visits and overseas business trips, so women on reduced hours after child-care leave usually take on internal functions rather than external ones.”

Although Tadao is himself married to a non-Japanese woman, he admits that working for a foreign firm did not change his own work style, which he describes as “typical Japanese salaryman.” His wife switched to freelance work so she could pursue a career while raising the couple’s children.

The most-recent Rengo survey revealed that women consider “a lack of understanding and cooperation from male colleagues with regards to pregnancy and childbirth” as the major reason for maternity harassment, chosen by two-thirds of participants.

“It is simply no longer acceptable to write this off as a ‘women’s issue,’ ” says Mayumi Morishita, a PR representative for Rengo. “Employers everywhere need to realize that a female-friendly workplace benefits Japanese society as a whole.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is touting “Womenomics” as part of his policy to spur growth, with measures that include encouraging stay-at-home mothers to return to employment and helping those already in the workforce to better manage a career and family. However, the recent sexist heckling by members of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party of politician Ayaka Shiomura in the Tokyo assembly as she called for more support for women during pregnancy and child-rearing suggests that Japan still has a long way to go.

Aimee, meanwhile, is pursuing legal action against her employer with the help of the local labor standards office. Aside from the loss of expected income, she is struggling with other issues, including the possibility that her son will lose his place at public day care if she is found not to be working. Since she hasn’t “legally” been fired at this point, the labor office has also cautioned Aimee against actively seeking new employment elsewhere.

“If it is obvious I am looking for another job, my boss could turn things around and say I wasn’t serious about working for them anyway,” she says. “I understand that employees on maternity leave can cause inconvenience for an employer, but they also need to understand they are messing with someone’s livelihood here.”

Are you a victim of ‘maternity harassment’?

If you suspect you may be facing maternity harassment in the workplace, experts say there is no need to just sit back and let it happen. Here are some steps you can take:

• Keep a detailed record of meetings, emails, paperwork, etc., related to your case.

• If you can’t talk to your supervisor or manager, try going to the company’s human-resources department — or the head office, where applicable.

When internal communications break down, try contacting:

• The Equal Employment Office of your local Labor Relations Bureau: www.mhlw.go.jp/bunya/koyoukintou/roudoukyoku

• Your local Rengo office: www.jtuc-rengo.or.jp/soudan/tel_soudan/tel_ichiran.html

(If you are not comfortable communicating in Japanese, both the Labor Relations Bureau and Rengo advise visiting with a Japanese-speaking partner or friend.)

Information in English on laws related to maternity and childcare leave can be found at www.mhlw.go.jp/english/wp/wp-hw6/dl/07e.pdf.

Pseudonyms have been used in some cases to protect interviewees from retribution by their companies. Your comments: community@japantimes.co.jp

  • Steve Jackman

    Unfortunately, foreign workers in Japan often fall victim to a trifecta of forces working against them. First, Japanese companies simply ignore or break Japan’s labor laws when dealing with their foreign workers in ways they would never dream of doing with their Japanese workers.

    Second, foreign workers often do not get the same treatment as Japanese workers when they seek help from the Labor Standards office and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Quite simply, they are treated as second class workers and are deemed not to deserve the same rights and protections under labor laws as their Japanese counterparts.

    Third, Japan’s judicial system is extremely racist and unfair towards foreign workers, if they decide to litigate against a Japanese company for violating their rights under Japanese labor laws. The Japanese courts are the absolute worst in the way they mistreat and discriminate against foreign workers, and by their total disregard for Japanese labor laws when dealing with foreign litigants.

    I urge any foreign workers who may be contemplating working for a Japanese company to take these factors into account before making a decision to work there. As a foreign worker, you will basically be at the whims of the company and have absolutely no safety net when things go wrong, as they inevitably do for foreign workers in Japan.

    • Gordon Graham

      Can you please cite some cases in which the Japanese judicial system has proved to be racist and unfair towards foreign workers. I’m not being challenging or incredulous, I just want to know.

      • Steve Jackman

        Yes, Gordon, I know of several such cases, but am not at liberty to disclose details here at this point in time due to confidentiality reasons.

      • Gordon Graham

        Then please divulge some information on some specific case from which I can make a fair judgement on whether what you say is valid or not. I tried to find a case study on the Internet but came up empty.

      • Steve Jackman

        Details for the cases I have information on will come out in due time.

        On your other point, there is some information on other cases which is publicly available on the internet if you know where to look.

        As far as your “fair judgment” goes, I’d have to say, judging from your dozens of other comments here, that would be an oxymoron.

      • Gordon Graham

        Where should I look? I mean if you’re only here to get a hear hear from the likes of RonNJ, then I’ll quite understand.

      • Gordon Graham

        Where exactly can one look? Those are very serious claims you’re making. I’d like to verify them.

      • Steve Jackman

        That’s an odd question coming from someone who seems to know everything and have all the answers.

      • Gordon Graham

        It’s a legitimate question from someone who would like to know more and has yet to receive an answer.

      • Steve Jackman

        I don’t provide answers to trolls.

      • Gordon Graham

        It’s clear you have no answers and provide unfounded accusations only.

      • Steve Jackman

        No, it’s just that I have no interest in providing any information to a poster like you, whose online persona I do not believe and whose motives I do not trust.

      • Gordon Graham

        What was that that Lao Tzu said about trust?

      • Steve Jackman

        Gordon, I hope you can understand that I cannot provide confidential information on specific cases in a public forum like this, especially since there is no way for me to confirm your online identity or motives. You will find out about any details, if and when this information is made public.

      • Gordon Graham

        I’m not asking you to divulge confidential information. I’m asking for some sample case you can point to that clearly supports your claims. You’re making very serious claims with not one single example to support them. If the courts are as corrupt and unjust as you say they are there must be plenty you can cite.

      • Steve Jackman

        Gordon Graham, please understand that this is the end of my discussion with you on this topic. Goodbye!

      • Steve Jackman

        I don’t think this is the right time or place for me to provide specifics about the cases on which I have based my original comment.

      • Steve Jackman

        I don’t think I can convince you and neither am I out to change your mind about anything.

      • Sam Gilman

        I’d be surprised if there were no controversial cases, but I’m not sure you’d get any useful information from a fictional creation.

        The position of women in the labour market is a serious issue here. While the article itself quite reasonably brings up cases involving foreign women as a means of bringing the issue to a wider audience, it’s all too typical of a certain kind of ex-pat to bulldoze through gender issues like this to return to their own obsessions.

        (I’d have a fair bet that most non-natives living here for long enough (and if they have children) have heard directly from friends and relatives of issues of gender discrimination and over-burdensome challenges for working/wanting to work mothers.)

      • Gordon Graham

        I’m still waiting for an example of how the Japanese judicial system is “extremely racist and unfair towards foreign workers” and how the Japanese courts are “the absolute worst in the way they discriminate against foreign workers and by their total disregard for Japanese labour laws when dealing with foreign litigants”. No example has been provided…The silence speaks volumes.

      • Sam Gilman

        I think you may have misread what I wrote ;-)

      • Gordon Graham

        I got it…sorry. I’m appreciative of those who through diligence and perseverance have actuated change, and that more changes are needed. I do think that the Japanese courts are helping to bring about those changes and it’s unfair to see the judicial system as some kind of evil deus ex machina that plots against foreigners rights.

      • Beth

        Same here…

      • Gordon Graham

        Perhaps you can cite a case, Beth. Steve is scrambling but coming up empty.

      • Steve Jackman

        Gordon Graham, just to be clear, I am not coming up empty. I just do not wish to engage with you any further on this topic. I hope you can understand.

      • Gordon Graham

        I understand that you made some very serious accusations without as much as one single iota of proof to back up any of your claims. I think most people would agree that such pernicious and wilfully malicious claims require some kind of evidence to back them up. Who knows, maybe I’m wrong maybe people just generally swallow hate willy nilly and need no more than a few hear hears to wash it down.

      • Steve Jackman

        Gordon, which part of what I wrote earlier that, “this is the end of my discussion with you on this topic. Goodbye”, don’t you understand?

      • 6810

        I though GG was being rather clear actually.

        You said: “[J]apan’s judicial system is extremely racist and unfair towards
        foreign workers […]. The Japanese
        courts are the absolute worst in the way they mistreat and discriminate
        against foreign workers, and by their total disregard for Japanese labor
        laws when dealing with foreign litigants.”

        GG said: Prove it. Point me to some cases.

        You said: I can’t because confidential.

        He said (and you didn’t comprehend): I don’t need to know about a case you’re directly involved in, however, can you please point to other cases that have been judged and whose judgements are a matter of public record (as is the case with the judicial system here) that would verify your claims of “extreme racism” and “total disregard of the law” by Japanese courts in relation to foreigners.

        You repeated your earlier statement and GG, his. Then you took your bat and ball and went home.

        And still lacking in this conversation is actual proof of “extreme racism” and “total disregard of the law” by Japanese courts in relation to foreigners.

      • Steve Jackman

        You see, I have read both your and Gordon Graham’s past comments which are archived. Gordon Graham, in particular, has been following and hounding me for a while everytime I post a comment. I think his comments have crossed the line from simply asking questions to badgering and harassment, so I have decided not to engage with him any further. Even when, I have presented him with clear facts and examples in the past, he remains steadfast in his own beliefs. I cannot get into a “birther” type of debate here, where for example, some fringe elements in the U.S. still insist that Obama was not born in the U.S., inspite of clear evidence to the contrary.

      • Gordon Graham

        By hounding, Steve means challenging unfounded claims or sweeping generalizations meant to condemn and vilify. I enjoin anyone to go through my “archived” comments and point out where I’ve been unreasonable in any of my statements. My beliefs are my beliefs because they have been proved to be valid. For example, I believe Obama was born in the U.S. I am open to persuasion but am not persuaded by accusation or wishful thinking alone.

      • Steve Jackman

        Gordon Graham, what do you call using expletives, such as FU, or threatening violence, such as writing that I would be punched in the face, both of which you have done in your comments to me? You did this in your comments to another story here in this newspaper. Since, your comments got removed, they are not in archives, but plenty of others are.

      • Gordon Graham

        Thank you for illustrating my point, Steve. That you finagle people’s words by taking them out of context to suit your personal narrative (just as you so often take an isolated incident and extend it to the Japanese people en mass to call them racist and backwards). What I actually said was “if you were to use the “N” word to a black man you would get a well deserved punch in the face”. As for the FU, that was an adequate response for the insults you fired at me simply for having the audacity to challenge your assertions (I can only suppose by this you were merely looking for consensus and a pat on the back when you posted your comments). Much like the insults that have been removed from this page by the moderator. I’m certainly not above returning an insult. However, I’d prefer if you simply answered the question.

      • Steve Jackman

        Gordon, I can’t seem to shake you off, so let me say that you have once again misrepresented your past comments. Also, you can find a specific example of the unfair treatment foreign litigants receive in the Japanese courts under the comments section of another story just published in The Japan Times under the heading , “Ministry Panel Backpedals on Promise to Revamp Justice System.”

      • Gordon Graham

        I’ll have a look…Thanks. Wait did you mean in the comments section or in the article?

      • Steve Jackman

        Comments section.

      • Gordon Graham

        I read it. Now, can you direct me to a documented story from a reliable source?

      • Steve Jackman


  • Ron NJ

    Japan actually has relatively generous laws for new parents.

    All the laws in the world won’t do any good if enforcement is lax. The 40 hour work week and appropriate remuneration for overtime work are both enshrined in Japanese law, but that doesn’t stop (often excessively) long hours and unpaid overtime being some sort of sick point of national pride here, does it?

  • Gordon Graham

    It is evident by the examples given in the article that there are laws and recourse to those whose legal rights have been abused. While the male dominated business world may be slow at catching up to the laws enacted by the Japanese State, change is certainly discernible.

  • Steve Jackman

    I would also caution any foreign workers who decide to litigate against a Japanese company to be extremely vigilant and diligent when selecting a Japanese lawyer to represent them.

    Do not assume that your Japanese lawyers will necessarily be sincere to you, or that they will have your best interests at heart. This is especially true for any lawyers who have a connection to the government or are appointed by a Japanese Bar Association to regularly deal with foreigners, since they can often be no more than “handlers” or “fixers”, whose main goal is to make you and your (legimitate) problem go away by using unscrupulous tactics and through extrajudicial means.

    There is also no client-attorney privilege in Japan, so always assume that anything you tell your lawyers in confidence, they will tell the opposing side lawyers and the presiding judge, even if it damages your case and lessens your chance of winning in court.

  • Mark Makino

    “Their own wives probably off-ramped from the workforce upon marriage or
    giving birth to become full-time housewives,” she says, “in line with
    the usual model for motherhood in this country until quite recently.” As long as one is only speaking of white collar workers in the last half century.

    • Ashlea Miyauchi

      The context of that sentence is talking about how upper management in companies can’t understand current working mothers. So, yes, that would be white collar workers today.

      • Gordon Graham

        It’s supposes how upper management in companies can’t understand current working mothers. It’s an unfounded and therefore unhelpful assumption.

  • Observe the statement, “What I gathered from the situation is that he had hired a new woman and he no longer needed me.” This is one person’s perspective, but more than one person is involved. What if we change the perspective to the woman who replaced her?

    “I was hired to replace a woman who decided to leave her work duties to have children. I am career-oriented and have worked hard to get this chance. They say she wants to come back to work now, because it is convenient for her now…but what about me? I worked hard to fill her shoes, without taking leave, and now they say I have to go. They are punishing me, and rewarding her.

    I am not a woman with children or who wants to have children. But there are other things that are important to me. Why are her other values subsidized by law, but my own are not? Why is the government is operating on patriarchal premise that it is an expected duty and course of a woman’s life to carry children — but that the other deep values a woman (or man) may hold are somehow separate and unworthy of subsidy?”

    • Sam Gilman

      I’m not sure you’ve thought this through.

      How many fathers do you know who have had to take leave to give birth to a baby? Who will be funding your pension, doing your nursing, when you’re older? 80-year-old childless women?

      Did your mother have you as a lifestyle choice? Is it the same as choosing between an espresso maker or a French press? Is that the depth of your understanding of human nature?

      I have to say, treating having children as just another private lifestyle choice a woman freely makes and for which she must bear the burden is one of the sillier ideas thrown about by libertarians.

    • TokyoMommy

      When you hire someone on maternity leave, you hire them temporarily in the same way you would hire someone to cover someone who is on sick leave. The person is a substitute worker, who may be able to work their way into a full time position in the future or may be moved from another department to cover that position until that person returns. As for having children, it is a normal part of life for families. Families are important for a society to function properly. No children, no future. Those who raise families need to be included in the threads of society. Don’t forget, you were once a child of a mother and father who no doubt already had to make HUGE sacrifices for you. What if you Mother or Father were denied employment because you were born? How would your family survive? How would you survive? In many cases, Mothers have no choice but to work. Sometimes Fathers are ill, uneducated, or unable to work. Sometimes there just isn’t enough money to raise a family…those who have children have an enormous amount of responsibility. For many they only need support for a season, then they can became very highly valuable employees with understanding and strong investment in the business.

    • Sasori

      Dear Snivels,
      You knew what you were getting into when you were hired. If you claim ignoramce, that illustrates a reason you were hired temporarily: Lack of work experience.
      Additionally, your bizarrely patriotic overtones towards working for a company make me suggest you seek counselling.
      Lastly, many young women say they don’t want to have kids. Then, the clock-ticking starts to be heard Getting louder and louder.

  • Earl Kinmonth

    “Third, Japan’s judicial system is extremely racist and unfair towards foreign workers, if they decide to litigate against a Japanese company for violating their rights under Japanese labor laws.” I would hope Mr. Jackman can elaborate on this. The largest single group of foreign nationals with residency rights that permit working in Japan are Chinese (PRC and ROC) followed by Koreans (ROK and DPRK). In other words, other Asians. As of the end of 2013, there were around 700,000 Chinese in Japan (not counting students who can also legally work up to 28 hours per week), roughly 520,000 Korean nationals, around 210,000 Filipino nationals, 72,000 Vietnamese, etc. Foreign nationals in Japan are so predominantly Asian that the 72,000 Vietnamese outnumber the 60,000 Europeans in Japan or the 63,000 North Americans in Japan. Presumably there will be a rough correlation between numbers and disputes. With 10 times as many Chinese as North Americans in Japan, presumably there will be more disputes involving Chinese than North Americans even if the ratio is not 10:1. (1) Do Japanese and Chinese belong to different “races” to the extent that issues between Japanese and Chinese can involve “racism?” (2) Are Mr. Jackman’s assertions about racism based on a survey of the dominant foreign national groups in Japan (Chinese and Koreans) or only from the Anglophone types likely to read the JT? (3) How does one determine if a court ruling unfavorable to a foreigner is based on racism? Just because the court makes an unfavorable ruling? If that is the case, what explains the many instances where a Japanese court rules against a Japan national in a labor dispute?

    • Dia Štefánková

      finally someone pointed this out!

    • Sasori

      I can’t really track if your racism points/questions are specific to the courts. But, on the street, nobody is Japanese except Japanese. In other words, anyone who refers to themselves as a citizen or resident is less than Japanese. ‘Asian’ is not Japanese.

      • Earl Kinmonth

        “But, on the street, nobody is Japanese except Japanese.” What does this mean? How can anyone “on the street” tell if, for example, a Chinese or Korean is not-Japanese, especially if they were born in Japan and are native speakers of Japanese? And, as a Japanese citizen, I would not particularly care what people on the street think as long as I get equal treatment under the law from government agencies. I’m not really bothered if pink salons and “fashion health” operations say “Japanese only.”

  • Ashlea Miyauchi

    This is a classic case of “it starts at the top.” Abe himself has made statements that are shockingly chauvinistic, as if he can’t understand why any woman would want to work when she could be making babies to solve the country’s aging population problem.
    As a mother trying to come back to Japan to work as an AET, I faced inappropriate comments during interviews. I turned down that job and took one through a gyomu itaku/dispatch company. As much criticism as these companies receive, my branch was 100% supportive of me and my family. Nevertheless, I shouldn’t have had to turn down a full time job with benefits because they were concerned that I wouldn’t be a good mother.
    My husband’s company was much less supportive of his desire to be a father. They were dismayed whenever he asked off time from work in order to take care of his sick children, and were flabbergasted that he should *dare* take a week off to travel back to the States to see the boys’ grandparents once a year.
    If gender equality is going to have any headway in Japan, it has to address both issues: take care of both women who are slighted as incompetent, and also men who want to participate fully in family life.

  • Paul Johnny Lynn

    Though not related to maternity problems…at my second job I was “let go” when I declined a request to transfer to an unspecified location with NO notice. They said they needed a reply THAT day. When I went to Labour Standards I was told “Yes, your employer has acted illegally. We can request they come here for negotiation but if they decline to attend, there’s nothing we can do.” Thanks for nothing. My last job also fired me illegally. When asked if I would be signing another contract I said no, and gave them 2 months notice from that day. As usual with that company, they gave us the contract talk some days after the previous one had expired. The manager told me the next day, at the end of the days work, that my services were no longer required as of immediately. I told her that was illegal and I’d talk to Labour Standards about it. Her response was to threaten to harrass my sick girlfriend who (unbeknownst to me) she’d made to sign a contract making her guarantor for me as an employee, and liable to financial punishment if I were to “harm the company.” I found out it had no legal standing, however, the health of my girlfriend was my primary concern at the time so I endured the blackmail. I was then unemployed for 5 months, spent all my savings, and had to lie to my girlfriend that I was still working. It’s been MY experience that Japanese employers have no ethics, do not feel bound by any rules, and the Labour Standards Bureau is a toothless tiger. Others may have had different experiences.

  • Dia Štefánková

    wow, just… wow

  • Tim Johnston

    Mothers in Japan seem to have a lot of rights and benefits within the legal system in Japan. Health, Education and child rearing benefits much greater than most countries, on the other hand, no one should be fired because of discrimination or harassment.

  • Michieie

    Unfortunately my country has a similar problem, only that since it’s illegal to kick out someone with no reason they will try to make up excuses or make you fail or pinpoint you to get you fired if you get pregnant. There’s also the fact that, if a woman has a child she has less chances of being hired due to work hours lost and whatnot.

    Long story short, being a mother or being pregnant makes you a less viable worker and they will try to get rid of you or discard you.

  • Sasori

    Zoinks! Where are you originally from? This goes beyond the typical Japan-apologist rant.

  • Paul Johnny Lynn

    I’d rather not name them here Ian, but what the law says and what companies do are often worlds apart. None of these problems will even begin to disappear until there’s a polar shift in attitudes here, and the L.S.B. is given some real teeth and uses them.