Japan is currently facing a shrinking population. Official census figures show that at the start of this decade, Japan’s population hit 128 million and shrank by a million in five years. By 2060, demographers expect the population to drop to as few as 80 million people.
In 2016, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the number of births in Japan dropped below one million for the first time.
According to an article by AFP, this worrying problem is already affecting the economy in certain areas including the job and housing markets, consumer spending and long-term investment plans at businesses.
In order to compensate labour shortages, workplaces are increasingly demanding long hours and overtime from it’s employees and in effect, becomes burdensome to female employees.
Even though women now account for 43 percent of the labor force, Japanese society still expects women to take the lead on housework and childcare.
Some women feel forced to quit their jobs to have children or sacrifice having their own family in order to stay employed and get promoted.
To work around the problem, “pregnancy rotas” is starting to become a normal practice at workplaces that mostly employ young female workers.
From the employer’s perspective, labour shortages makes it impossible to manage a business if employees take maternity leave whenever they choose.
However, making couples ‘wait their turn’ to get pregnant has lowered Japan’s birthrate and only worsens the shrinking population.
Even though legal experts say that forcing employees to conceive only when it is their turn is against the law, in places like nurseries and hospitals, the practice is almost unavoidable.
The issue recently made headlines earlier this year when a man wrote about his wife saying that she was only allowed to get pregnant when it was her turn.
In a letter to the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, the boss had told them off for “breaking the rules” by getting pregnant and they had to apologize to the boss.
The letter sparked a debate about the practice and brought up two of the most pressing social issues in Japan, which is a shrinking population and the struggle women face balancing a career and a family.
Japan currently ranks bottom of the G7 countries on female representation in politics and business. The problem can only be addressed when there is a broader cultural shift to boost female participation in the workplace.