A Tokyo-based company that employs mothers who are raising children is pioneering a way to make it easier for such women to stay in the workforce.
At Mama Square Stellar Town in a big shopping mall in Kita Ward in the city of Saitama, some 15 women wearing telephone headsets are hard at work. In an adjacent room, separated by a glass wall, their children play contentedly with nursery staff.
The mothers can enter the nursery room whenever necessary, to change diapers for instance, and are alerted to such needs by a message board maintained by one of the nursery workers. They also spend lunchtime together with their children.
The workshop is operated by Mama Square, based in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, which hires child-rearing mothers as part-time workers for telemarketing, proofreading and other assignments on behalf of big companies and other clients. While they are at work, their children are taken care of by nursery workers free of charge.
The nursing space cannot be registered as a day care center for children, however, as the mothers are always physically proximate to their kids, for whose safety Mama Square maintains the number of nursery workers legally required for actual day care centers.
Satoshi Fujishiro, founder and president of Mama Square, launched the system because “a large number of competent women with career achievements cannot resume their employment simply because they are raising children,” he said.
Mama Square, which began life as the operator of a cafe with a nursery space, plans to open some 20 similar workplaces across Japan by next spring, Fujishiro said.
The Saitama office is “ideal because I can work at my pace while securing enough time with my children,” said Rie Morioka, 28, who works there while leaving her 1-year-old son in the nursery room.
After graduating from university, Morioka began to work at a cram school on a full-time basis but quit when she gave birth to her first son, who is now 5 years old. She had initially decided to stay with him until he enrolled in elementary school but then worried about whether she could resume work after spending so many years away.
Morioka then came across a job opening at Mama Square’s Saitama office and was employed. Because she needs to take her older son to and from kindergarten, she now works from 9:30 a.m. until 2:20 p.m., three to four days a week.
The work system developed by Mama Square is drawing attention from local governments.
In September, the company opened a workplace by refurbishing a closed store in Katsuragi, Nara Prefecture, with financial support from the Katsuragi government, with city officials deciding to promote the system to help stem the falling birthrate and enhance job security.
With 80 people applying for 30 jobs offered by Mama Square, the company is considering expanding operations in Katsuragi.
Some other local governments are also considering tie-ups with Mama Square.
“Data show that some 1.5 million housewives cannot find jobs although they are willing to work,” Fujishiro said. “Increasing options for how to work will lead to better use of dormant human resources.”
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