In Japanese companies, women have a timetable detailing when they can get pregnant. Sayako is a 35-year-old Japanese nurse and mother of two. The young mother had to resign from her previous job after her supervisor tried to dissuade her from having a second child, when she had an infertility problem.
Working class women are allowed to get pregnant, but not all at the same time.
“If I had ever had a non-programmed child in the old nursery where I worked, maybe I should have apologized”, Sayako said.
Some companies and employers have established a sort of pregnancy waiting list system by making their young employees who want a child wait so that maternity leave does not slow down work activity.
This illegal practice of setting an order for pregnancies is common in the working environment, and does not come as a shock to Japanese. But it was recently denounced, by the husband of a woman who got pregnant without waiting for her turn. The couple had to apologize to the company’s boss.
Kanako Amano is a researcher specialized in working conditions for women.
“Some companies and employers have established a sort of pregnancy waiting list system by making their young employees who want a child wait so that maternity leave does not slow down work activity. This practice affects women as well as their husbands and is a fundamental problem in Japanese society because it considerably affects the birth rate in Japan”, Amano explained.
Many women therefore choose to give up their desire to start a family or resign when they become pregnant. And the researcher adds that “waiting for her turn to become pregnant has played in the drop-out rate” that Japan has suffered for decades.
According to recent studies, 40% of Japanese believe that the role of women is to “manage the house”, that of men to “work outside”. Contrary opinions tend to increase, but slowly.
The shortage of manpower in several sectors, including the care of toddlers and the elderly or the hospital environment, makes it “inevitable” for women to wait for their turn to start a pregnancy said Naoki Sakasai, who heads the Institute for Early Childhood Research and Education.
Less than a million newborns were registered last year in Japan, a figure that is dwindling, while the country suffers from birth defects.