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Japanese Women, Parenting, and Family Life

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Japanese women have often been described as strongly committed to the role of housewife and mother. But many of these "good wives and wise mothers" are now postponing marriage and bearing fewer children than ever before. To better understand this phenomenon, this article explores Japanese women's perspectives and experiences of marriage, parenting, and family life. Findings from the author's recent longitudinal study suggest that women are more satisfied with their family life if they have realistic expectations for their own behavior, are supported by their husbands, and have the opportunity to engage in meaningful employment. These results suggest a need for changes in the structure of the workplace and the education system to provide women with the opportunity to find a fulfilling balance of work and family life.

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This book takes an interdisciplinary approach to one of Japan's thorniest public policy issues: why are women increasingly forgoing motherhood? At the heart of the matter lies a paradox: although the overall trend among rich countries is for fertility to decrease as female labor participation increases, gender-friendly countries resist the trend. Conversely, gender-unfriendly countries have lower fertility rates than they would have if they changed their labor markets to encourage the hiring of women—and therein lies Japan's problem. The authors argue that the combination of an inhospitable labor market for women and insufficient support for childcare pushes women toward working harder to promote their careers, to the detriment of childbearing. Controversial and enlightening, this book provides policy recommendations for solving not just Japan's fertility issue but those of other modern democracies facing a similar crisis.
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