MARRIED women want to work, according to a government survey that will form the basis for a 2012 white paper on children, child rearing and mothers. The survey results, released early, show an astounding 86 per cent of women want to continue working after having children, though most find it almost impossible to do so. Only 11.6 per cent indicated they do not wish to seek employment. Of women aged 20 to 49 with children under 19, the survey found that 45.3 per cent said they wish to work part time and that 25.8 per cent would like to become regular employees. Another 14.9 per cent wanted to work part time at first and later as regular employees. The gap between wanting to work and being employed, though, is vast. …This desire to work indicates that half of Japan’s workforce is woefully underutilised. Japan’s looming demographic and economic crises would be eased by fuller participation of women. The road to employing more women is not an easy one, but the process can be hastened with specific measures.
Companies should be more flexible to accommodate women taking care of children. The refusal of many companies to allow flex-time, convenient working hours, telecommuting or emergency time off to take care of children is more than just a tradition-bound, business-as-usual mindset. That inflexibility is the central obstacle to women’s employment. In simple terms, women need to leave the workplace to pick up their kids from school and daycare centres, and take care of them at home. Several hours of childcare will not interfere with total working hours if companies find ways to accommodate their female employees. The government should help by bolstering the nation’s childcare system. With increased subsidies and assistance to childcare centres, women would be given help with the important duty of childrearing. Company flexibility is essential. …—(June 4)