Trends in Japan (Web Japan)

Society Supports Work-Life Balance

photoA stroller with high handles so men can push it easily. ©Combi corporation

More and more Japanese fathers are taking an active role in raising their children. Stores are stocking a growing selection of baby goods designed for use by fathers, and support networks enabling men to exchange child-care information are being formed. Amid the trend toward an equal-opportunity society and increased awareness of work-life balance, companies where fathers work are showing more understanding, making it easier for their employees to spend sufficient time with their children by establishing such provisions as paid child-care leave.
Baby Products for Dads Proving Popular
Combi, a major Japanese manufacturer of baby products, has launched a new stroller with a raised handle to make it easier for fathers to use. Until now, strollers designed for mothers have been too short for most men, forcing them to bend forward while pushing, but the new stroller enables fathers to walk and push comfortably. Many other baby products, such as carrying slings and diaper bags, with designs and colors that look more appropriate for men have appeared on store shelves and are selling well. Diaper changing stations, conventionally found only in the ladies’ washrooms in department stores and other places, have now been installed in the men’s washroom in the Men’s Building of the long-established Isetan Department Store in Shinjuku—clear evidence of the increasing number of hands-on fathers.
With nuclear families and working mothers now commonplace, child care has become a big issue for young married couples. Families in which the father shares the child-rearing burden are on the increase, but in reality it is difficult to maintain a smooth routine of both work and family time over a long period. The reasons for this include fathers being unable to take time off work or a general lack of understanding on the part of employers.
These issues are now being addressed by society as a whole, and a system of measures to support child rearing by fathers is taking shape. Fathers’ own attitudes toward participation in child care have changed, too. In a government survey on child rearing conducted last year, 69.9% of fathers indicated that they “would like to be involved equally in child rearing and work”; the figure for respondents below 34 years of age was 80%.

photoA Tonga baby carrier designed for men. ©DAD-WAY INC.

The Push for Paid Child-Care Leave
The government is assisting fathers through legislation that actively supports child rearing by fathers. Many companies have also taken measures to improve their policies, including recognition of child-care leave as paid leave, so that male employees can successfully balance child-care and work responsibilities. The number of companies making efforts to encourage fathers to participate in child-care activities, through such schemes as shortened workdays, telecommuting, and paid child-care leave, is increasing.
Support and inspiration can also be found in the increasing number of magazines on child rearing targeting fathers and through networks in which fathers exchange information and concerns about child rearing or even cook a meal together. Support for men’s child-rearing efforts is likely to spread further throughout society in the years ahead. (October 2008)