The harassment of pregnant women in Japan’s workplaces is a well-documented phenomenon. Now, a new report by Agence France-Presse reveals a new form of discrimination against women who want to have children while maintaining their jobs: informal pregnancy rotas.
The idea behind the rota, according to the AFP report, is that women should not try to become pregnant “out of turn.” A daycare worker identified by the pseudonym Sayako said that when her boss found out she was trying to conceive her second child, he chastised her, saying that an older female colleague had priority when it came to getting pregnant. “I was told, “Why don’t you take a break, especially since you already had one,” she recalled.
“I was so shocked and stunned that I couldn’t answer,” Sayako said.
Labor shortages in Japan, driven by a dwindling birth rate, have led employers to discourage female staff from becoming pregnant and taking maternity leave.
“They think that if you want to cling to your job, then you should wait your turn,” Kanako Amano, a researcher at the NLI Research Institute, told the AFP.
Other elements of Japan’s workplace culture also dissuade women from becoming pregnant — or from returning to work once they have children. Many companies demand long working hours, making it practically impossible for women to balance their work and home lives.
The result is a vicious cycle: because Japanese women do not feel like they can take time off for maternity leave, the country’s birth rate continues to be low, further fueling the labor shortage, Amano says.
In recent years, some companies have been implementing a number of measures to help women better integrate their work and childcare duties. Some employers, for example, have reduced fixed working hours and started letting employees work from home several days a week.
For more on Sayako’s story, watch the video below.
Read the full story at the AFP.