It is noteworthy that in 1994 the Basic Direction for Future ChildRearing

Table of Contents

It is noteworthy that in 1994, the Basic Direction for Future Child-Rearing Support (the Angel Plan) was jointly published by the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Labor, and Ministry of Construction with the purpose of introducing a wide range of new services, especially including care for children under 3 years old, extended hourly child care and temporary child care. It was revised after 5 years, namely in December 1999 “to include not only day-care service related issues but also an approach to employment, mother and child health, consultation, education, etc and a “New Angel Plan” was formulated and was promoted from 2000 to 2004”. Angel Plan also includes an important statement that “Considering the importance of child rearing as a function of the family, child-rearing support measures in family life will be strengthened to ensure that this function is not lost. This will include creating an environment for creating a gender-equal society in which men and women will share housework and childcare.” Another clear example of measure which was taken by government is the following, “The third Abe Administration starting on October 7, 2015 is tackling structural issues of the declining birthrate and aging population, as well as realization of “Society with Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens,” the administration proposes new three pillars of stability (Abenomics). Second pillar is important to mention as it is “supports for dream weaving childrearing” by targeting “a desired birthrate of 1.8””. The main idea behind this second stage of Abenomics is to improve the infrastructure of childrearing and social security, “through which economy can be strengthened and positive cycles of growth and distribution” can be realized. in line with work and life balance. In relation to the realization of importance of harmonization of work and life balance was identified as the priority issue in the intermediate report and in 2007, the Work-Life Balance Promotion Public and Private Summit consisting of the Chief Cabinet Secretary as chairperson, related cabinet ministers, business and labour communities, local representatives and experts, decided on a “Work-Life Balance Charter and Action Guidelines for Promotion of Work-Life Balance”, and they have been reflected in the Important Strategy. From my perspective creating such specific charter can be considered as one of the clear examples of initiative steps taken towards reaching WLB as it cover the following policies: “Implementation of Work-Life Balance by restructuring work methods; Construction of systematic framework for comprehensive next-generation nurturing support; Review of resources for declining birth rate countermeasures; Check and evaluation of effectiveness of implementation”. Based on this charter the promotion of work of an individual’s work and personal life, both public and governments united involvement is required. In February 2008, the “anti-waiting-list-for-new-entrants strategy” was developed. Main purpose of this strategy is to improve the “quality and quantity of day-care policies to eliminate waiting lists for nurseries by working towards developing a society which helps healthy holistic nurturing of children” and creating a harmonized environment especially for working women to work peacefully. This strategy was aimed for 10-year target plan. Despite having the development of this “anti-waiting-list-for-new-entrants strategy” however the kindergarten waiting list remained as a serious issue in urban areas. Thus, in 2013 the Japanese government newly formulated it and enacted “The acceleration plan for reducing wait-listed children,” policy and “set a goal to secure daycare facilities for about 0.4 million children from 2013 to the end of 2017”. Besides that, in 1997 the Child Welfare Law was revised for the first time in 50 years and in 2003 “Act to Promote Support for Fostering the Next Generation” was established. According to Japan’s system of childcare leave, as Child Care and Family Care Leave Act, Article 5(1) stipulates that leave can be taken until the child reaches 1 year of age. When both parents take child care leave, leave may be taken until the child reaches one year and two months of age (Article 9.2). However if the child is not admitted to a nursery center due to the kindergarten waiting list, leave may be taken until the child reaches 18 months (Article 5 [3] ii, Child Care and Family Care Leave Act). The effectiveness of this law can be witnessed, as in 2012, employees in 77.9% of businesses took childcare leave. Meanwhile, although applying for childcare leave is left to the choice of the worker (Article 5 [1]), an employer may not refuse a child care leave application received from a worker (Article 6 [1]) and it stipulates that the employer can not reject worker’s request for childcare leave. Furthermore, this Act obliges employers to establish one of the following measures for workers who do not take advantage of the Child Care Leave System (the Act on Child and Family Care Leave, Article 23, Paragraph 1 and Ordinance for Enforcement of the Act on Child and Family Care Leave, Article 34, Paragraph 1): (i) the Program for Shortening Working Hours, (ii) a flextime program, (iii) a program to change start/finish times without altering total daily working hours, (iv) an overtime exemption program, or (v) the provision and management of a child care facility or similar for children under the age of three. It is employer’s requirement to establish and to exercise one of the above mentioned measure towards employees. Moreover, in March 2018 revision to the law makes it possible to extend the child care leave period up until when the child is 2 years of age if the child is unable to enter a nursery school. For example, “when a child who will turn 1 year and 6 months old in December is unable to enter a nursery school despite the fact that a parent’s child care leave is scheduled to end, the parent can avoid having to quit his or her job if he or she can obtain child care leave lasting until April, when nursery schools are relatively easier to enter”. Moreover, under the Act on Child and Family Care Leave, an employer is obligated to provide workers with children under elementary school age with nursing leave for five working days per fiscal year when the child requires nursing care in the event of injury or sickness (Article 16-2). As young child tends to get sick frequently, in consequence their nursery requires parents to come and pick up their children as one child’s sickness might influence other children in day care facilities, in these kinds of cases, this extra 5 day holidays under this provision is quite beneficial for caring mothers. After implementing this provision, there was a significant increase in the number of companies that started practicing it. According to the 2005 Basic Survey on Women’s Employment, percentage of companies (with more than 500 employees) with nursing care program increased from less than 60% in 2004 to more than 90% in 2005, by contrast this figures where comparatively low in the companies with less than 30 employees, as the figures was below than 30% in both periods, 2004 and 2005. Based on these numbers, it seems that nursing care program is widely implemented in big size companies, thus it might be challenging for those who work in small or medium sized companies when it comes to take extra day off for nursing care. “Considering this from the combined perspective of childcare leave and flexible working styles, Japan’s is a “rigid system.”” Since it is employees right to take a childcare leave, and the employer’s responsibility to give it based on the Child Care and Family Care Act. If employees right to take a child care leave is exclusively mentioned, then why achieving work life balance has been an issue? Because in practice, balancing child care with work is distinctive from individual to individual and at the same time the workplace environment also different. However when it comes to financial safeguards during child care leave, in japan, 67% of the wage before taking leave for the first six month and 50% thereafter is paid from employment insurance funds as childcare leave benefit (Employment Insurance Act Article 61.4; Supplementary Provisions Article 12 of the 2009 amendment) which is regarded as low. If husband’s salary is comparatively higher than wife’s salary, in most cases wives opt to take childcare leave. According to the Basic Survey on Women’s Employment, published by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare the percentage of women who took child care leave was 90% in 2002 and 70.6% in 2004 In this regard, in order to promote work life balance, and especially fairly sharing child rearing, diminishing the gender-based wage difference is also important to consider as the wage gap in Japan is 30.7%. When we consider WLB of working women, “Equal Employment Opportunity Act” is also noteworthy. As according to “Article 9 (Prohibition, etc. of Disadvantageous Treatment by Reason of Marriage, Pregnancy, Childbirth, etc.) (1) Employers shall not stipulate marriage, pregnancy or childbirth as a reason for retirement of women workers. (2) Employers shall not dismiss women workers for marriage. (3) Employers shall not dismiss or give disadvantageous treatment to women workers by reason of pregnancy, childbirth, or for requesting absence from work as prescribed in Article 65, paragraph 1, of the Labor Standards Act (Act No. 49 of 1947) or having taken absence from work as prescribed in the same Article, paragraph 1 or 2, of the same act, or by other reasons relating to pregnancy, childbirth as provided by Ordinance of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. (4) Dismissal of women workers who are pregnant or in the first year after childbirth shall be void. However, this shall not apply in the event that the employers prove that dismissals are not by reasons prescribed in the preceding paragraph.” Proposals for further reforms If a problem is widely spread and deeply rooted, it is hard to solve it in a short period of time. As one of the possible solutions can be implementing working from home systems such as introducing teleworking, specifically, conducting tasks from home or other locations through using information and communication technology. According to White Paper, nowadays companies are implementing teleworking with the aim of not only improving labor productivity but also assisting employees to achieve a better work-life balance. When surveyed on their aims for introducing teleworking, a significant percentage (43.9%) of companies selected the response “improving the efficiency / productivity of routine work.” Besides, they selected the responses related with work-life balance such as “adapting to employees who are combining work with family life” (50.9%), “shortening and raising the efficiency of traveling time employees spend” (43.9%), and “ensuring that employees enjoy relaxing and healthy lifestyles” (31.6%). The percentage of companies that responded that they have “introduced” teleworking had risen to 16.2% in 2015, from levels of around 10% from 2011 (9.7%) onward. If this percentage is going to increase steadily, then it may also positively affect on reaching a work-life balance. Another feasible solution for reaching better work life balance for working mothers is to establish day care facilities on the work place. In 2006, “7.5% of companies have established and operate nurseries within the place of business for regular employees, 9.8% assist with the cost of childcare, and 4.5% provide information on external childcare services.” The contributing factor for a significantly low percentage of day care services in workplace is, “companies may be hesitating to develop systems of services related to nursery care for their employees, due to the cost involved in developing infrastructure or gathering data to provide information on actual nursery care services”. However “in 2011 there were 4,165 nursery care facilities attended by 61,000 children within places of business”.