This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Working Mothers--the Key to Japan's Demographic Future

I've noted before that Japan is the land of the rising sun, but only the son rises. Japanese women are well educated and are active in the labor force, but they are much less likely to rise occupationally than are men, and they are very likely to be discriminated against at work if they become pregnant. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised at the beginning of this year that he would work on these issues, and this week's Economist has what might be called a report card on his progress.
“ABENOMICS is womenomics,” Japan’s prime minister declared, marrying two atrocious words in a single phrase, at a glamorous shindig called WAW!, or the “World Assembly for Women in Tokyo”, on August 28th-29th. Before an international audience of high-powered female leaders and businesswomen, Shinzo Abe promised to help women “shine” at work as a way to boost Japan’s talent pool and economy. As the conference opened, the Diet (parliament) passed a long-awaited law calling on companies to find ways to promote more women.
Yet such grand visions are beside the point for most working women. Sayaka Osakabe, founder of a new non-profit outfit called Matahara Net, which campaigns for the rights of pregnant women at work, says that before “shining” women just need to be allowed to work without being harassed. Matahara, (a contraction of “maternity” and “harassment”), is illegal but rife.
The problem is that there is a lot of opposition within society to these reforms. They won't come easily. In the meantime, Japan's birth rate remains very low and this lack of gender equality in the workplace (and at home) is almost certainly the primary reason, as it is in Taiwan.

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