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时间:2015-04-22 07:13来源:未知 作者:voa365 点击:

The weather is getting warmer in Tokyo and many Japanese men are accompanying their young children to parks on the weekends, to play football or catch, or walk with them in the woods. The mothers are always not present.


This is something of a sea change for Japanese men who have a reputation for being lazy at home.


A poll of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's member countries last year found that Norwegian men pitched in the most - 180 minutes a day - with housework and related chores while Japanese men did the least - only 62 minutes a day.


There is a reason for Japanese men's unhelpfulness at home.


In Japan's corporate culture, many employees - almost all men - are more devoted to their company than to their family. They routinely work long hours. They accept reassignment to remote locations without question. They carouse with colleagues and corporate clients till late at night.


Many young Japanese fathers today say they would like to be more involved in raising their children, but very few feel at liberty to take the child-care leave to which they are entitled by law.


Such a work style is possible for a man married to a stay-at-home woman who excuses him duties at home, but it is a different story for a woman with children.


About 70 percent of Japanese women leave the labor force after giving birth to their first child. Only about one-third of Japanese mothers with young children work, compared with 50 to 60 percent in the United States, Britain and Germany, and 75 percent in Sweden.


It is not fair to just blame Japan's corporations for Japanese women's retreat from workplaces. There are not enough child-care centers in Japan. Women are often caught in a Catch 22 situation: they cannot secure a job until a child-care slot is available, and they are not eligible for such a slot until they have a job.


Many women, as a result, choose to stay at work rather than have children.


Shinwa Agency Co, Ltd, a subsidiary of Japan's Daiwa House Group, offers its employees a bonus of 1 million yen ($8,410) for a child they give birth to. But very few female employees at Shinwa have taken the bonus.


It is commendable that Japanese companies are changing. Some companies including Itochu, a general trading house, and Ricoh, a printer maker, are initiating flexible working hours so as to reduce or put an end to overtime.


This move allows men to engage in raising their children and working mothers to balance work and family responsibilities.


Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is calling on Japanese corporations to appoint at least one woman to their boards. And he is considering changing the tax laws that discourage mothers from working and providing new training subsidies to help them return to the workplace following child-care leave.


These initiatives are not motivated by softhearted political correctness but by hard-headed economic logic. Japan's demographic challenges are too severe, and the untapped economic potential of Japanese women is too large to ignore.


Japan needs to expand its workforce, which is shrinking rapidly as a result of a declining birth rate and a rapidly aging population. The road ahead for Abe's mission to remedy gender inequality in the Japanese workforce is bumpy. Japan needs to change its deeply rooted social values on gender roles and foster a work style in which overtime is not the rule but the exception.


The best - and the simplest - way to encourage women's full participation in the workforce is to make child day care more readily and widely available. Doing so will allow mothers to return to workplaces whenever they see fit.


Tokyo's parks are one of the places where the changes underway in Japanese society are visible and laudable.


sea change: 突变;突发性彻底转变;重大变化
carouse: 畅饮;欢宴
commendable: 值得赞美的;很好的
hard-headed: 头脑冷静的
untapped: 未开发的;未使用的