Thursday, December 13, 2012

'Devil Wife' Trend: Modern Mom or Fearful Future?

'Devil Wife' Terue Suzuki

In the United States more and more women are balancing work, marriage and motherhood. Many are pursuing full time careers and returning to work shortly after the birth of their children, sometimes even having the fathers stay home full time to care for them. In recent years, the tables have turned where now more women are receiving college degrees than men.  The pursuit of a college education and career are acts becoming not only more typical for women, but also increasingly encouraged. But that is not the case in other parts of the world. Even today, in Japanese society women who choose to work instead of staying at home to care for the husband and children are referred to as devil wives. 

This 'Devil Wives' is a trend that the Japanese government is trying harder and harder to change, especially since the occurrence of two economic recessions, which began in 2007. 

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Despite efforts made by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and the government, the movement to increase the number of employed women has shown little success, with 70% of women still quitting their jobs after the birth of their first child. 

This overwhelming percentage makes women like Terue Suzuki, who returned to work shortly after the birth of her child, a minority. Suzuki moved back to her family home to get help with baby care after resuming her job as a senior manager in cloud-computing services. 

Increasing the number of women who return to work after marriage or childbirth is not going to be an easy task. Increasing women in the workforce involves the changing of opinions, opinions of husbands, parents, employers, and sometimes even the women themselves. These are opinions deeply integrating into Japanese history, culture and tradition. 

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It has been a common stereotype throughout history that it is the woman's duty to stay at home and take care of the children and husband while the husband works. After Suzuki released her story of moving into her parents' home during the week to work and spending weekends with her husband at their shared home, an arrangement she referred to as a temporary "weekend marriage", she received a tremendous amount of criticism -- being publicly nicknamed by a Japanese newspaper "oniyome", or devil wife. In addition to having to change many aspects of Japanese culture, bringing women into the workforce has also proved a difficult task due to extremely limited daycare, peer pressure, and job inflexibility.
Regardless of discouragingly high numbers such as 70%, the government still remains hopeful in its reversal process. Christine Wright, the head of the Japanese unit of Hays, a London-based recruitment company, says that change begins with awareness and that encouraging women to join in the work force must be a "top-down response." 

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