Family policy in Japan

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This page gives information of type family policy about the country Japan.
See all pages giving information on family policy for particular countries|See all pages giving information about Japan

This page provides an overview of family policy in Japan.

Context of family structure

Further information: family structure in Japan

The post-World War II family structures (the salaryman structure and the US-inspired love-based structure) had a highly asymmetric division of labor, with men expected to work very hard in their jobs to provide for the family, and women expected to do almost all the domestic production and household management, including rearing and educating children.

The general aim of the Japanese government has been to operate within the existing family structure norm rather than radically change them. As the norms have changed, the Japanese government's policies have changed somewhat.

Japanese family has historically been characterized by very low rates of illegitimacy. Even though people are increasingly having premarital sex now, the incidence of babies out-of-wedlock is still fairly low.

Context of fertility goals

The Japanese government was generally supportive of the goal of reducing fertility in the immediate post-World War II years. This can be seen in the legalization of abortion. However, around 1972, seeing that fertility was close to replacement, it switched to pro-natalist goals. The government has stuck with pro-natalist goals and fertility is well below replacement despite the government's efforts.

Policy timeline

See this paper for the pro-natalist policy timeline. For a more complete list of all policies relevant to fertility, see Fertility in Japan#Key events.

Year Direction (pronatalist versus antinatalist) based on intentions and naive reasoning about effects Event Total fertility rate values in that year and nearby years (relevant year in bold)
1972 pronatalist The Japanese government, foreseeing that fertility would soon drop to below the replacement fertility level, introduced a per-child subsidy.
1991 pronatalist Childcare Leave Act passed by Japanese government aimed at helping working mothers 1.576, 1.543, 1.537, 1.506, 1.464
1994 pronatalist government passed a four-year Angel Plan 1995-99 (officially known as the "Basic Direction for Future Childbearing Support Measures") with the primary goal being to establish more day-care centers to make parenting easier (and thereby, more attractive) 1.506, 1.464, 1.507, 1.426, 1.43
1999 pronatalist government passed a New Angel Plan building on the earlier Angel Plan, to build more day-care centers and after-school support. 1.392, 1.388, 1.347, 1.318, 1.29
2001 pronatalist Employment Insurance Law was amended, specifying that 40% salary was to be paid to regular full-time employees on childcare leave 1.347, 1.359, 1.336, 1.318, 1.29
2002 pronatalist "Plus One" plan announced by the government, encouraging fathers to take five-day paternity leave following childbirth 1.359, 1.336, 1.318, 1.29, 1.288
2003 pronatalist Japanese government passed "Next Generation" law and "Law for Measures to Support the Development of the Next Generation." These required any business with more than 300 workers to create a "plan" for raising the fertility level of its workers 1.336, 1.318, 1.29, 1.288, 1.254
2004 pronatalist government subsidies for infertility treatments began 1.318, 1.29, 1.288, 1.254, 1.313

Qualitative characteristics of policy

Japanese family policy has been characterized as pro-traditional in Gauthier's classification of family policy (i.e., it gives primacy to supporting family solidarity rather than promoting gender egalitarianism or fertility). Thus, Japan's initial pronatalist efforts (started in 1972) were in a pro-traditional context. In particular, the efforts were largely designed in the context of helping two-parent families raising children conventionally, with the male working outside the home and the female raising the children. As is characteristic of such policies, the focus was on pecuniary incentives rather than service provision.

However, the increasing workforce participation of women and their reluctance to marry at the cost of their careers led the Japanese government to shift in the direction of providing support explicitly targeted at mothers working part-time and full-time. Examples are the Angel Plan announced in 1994 and rolled out 1995-1999, and the New Angel Plan announced in 1999 and rolled out over the next few years. These built many day-care centers and afterschool programs.

At present, the Japanese government tries to help both types of family structures: those where women work and those where they don't. Families where women work are often given additional privileges: they can send their children to day care centers and preschools that have a richer range of hands-on activities and operate for more hours in a day. In cases where the mother stays at home, the day care centers and preschools are designed to provide a more rigid academic curriculum and operate for fewer hours of the day (with the expectation that the mother will take care of the child for the rest of the time).