Ayaka Saito, 35, a full-time employee at vessel parts maker Ena Seisakusho in the city of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, fine-tunes a lathe to shave a piece of metal to perfection to complete a part for a large ship — a moment that gives her a sense of accomplishment.

Saito, who is raising a 1-year-old child, is one of a growing number of women who return to work after giving birth. Despite various obstacles in her search for a job, she was keen to acquire specialized skills that would enable her to work in a way that she wanted.

She had quit her clerical job at a cram school when she got married in June 2021. In January this year, Ena Seisakusho hired her.