Being a working mother in Japan’s conservative society is not easy. Apart from the shortage in child-care facilities that will allow mothers to leave their child while they work and insufficient household help that is affordable, certain tax restrictions prevent them from working full-time. But all that is expected to change as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe push for programs that would put more women in the labor force.
With the population of Japan continuously shrinking, one of Abe’s platforms in his re-election in 2012 is to have more women back at work to help the economy. He has pledged to have at least 30 percent of women in managerial positions in time for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Putting more child-care facilities is not enough, Abe is already considering opening opportunities to foreign household helpers just to ensure women are able to leave their child for work. Hiroya Masuda from the Nomura Research Institute said, “To allow women to work to their full capacity, we will have to bring in people from Southeast Asia to help with childcare and housework.” But while Abe has pushed for the idea in his speech at the World Economic Forum, majority of the Japanese public remain hesitant. “There are people who complain about Japanese society changing. There are fears of a rise in crime,” Masuda added.
But with the high cost of local housekeeping and child care services, the nation may have no other choice. Domestic services charge an average of ¥48,000 ($469) a month for three hours of cleaning a week, while stay-in housekeepers in neighboring Singapore and Hong Kong average $517, a minimal difference. Hiring foreign workers will keep the competition at bay and probably lower the prices of local services. However, admittance of foreign household helpers in the nation must be done gradually so as people who are averse to the idea will have a chance to adjust and adapt and see the advantages in doing so.