The majority of Japanese households are dual-income. Yet when it comes to housework, women in heterosexual marriages still bare the brunt of the labor. A new survey spotlights exactly how little most men in Japan do – and the gulf between men’s and women’s perceptions of work-life balance.
As Japan’s population dwindles, the government is doing everything in its power to convince people to have more kids.
One of the major obstacles is finances. As prices climb and wages continue to stagnate, many people simply can’t afford to raise a family. And, as in other countries, more and more people in Japan are simply opting to remain single.
However, some also argue that, while Japan wants you to have children, it doesn’t offer much support once those kids are actually born. Parents – particularly moms – have complained for years that people are intolerant and hostile when they take their kids out in public. The company Soup Stock Tokyo found this out recently when its announcement that it would sponsor a special baby’s meal for parents sparked a fierce online backlash.
To add to this, there’s the unfair burden working women shoulder at home. I reported four years ago about how Japanese women shoulder the worst housework imbalance of any OECD nation, with women doing over five times the cleaning and child-rearing that their husbands do.
Men: We take out the garbage and…well, that’s about it
Has anything gotten better in the past four years? A new survey says: no, not really.
Real estate company FLIE (フリエ; furie) asked 592 married couples in Japan about work/life balance and housework. Of those surveyed, 61.7% reported that they were dual-income households where both partners worked. in 32.4% of households, the wife worked as a full-time housewife.
FLIE next asked men and women separately the household duties for which they were primarily responsible.
The answers from men are…enlightening (derogatory). Over half of men said they only took main responsibility for two household tasks: taking out the trash (71.1%) and washing dishes (50.4%). That leaves women doing most of the other chores, including cleaning (46.5%), washing (30.9%), and cooking (25.4%).
Perhaps most shocking? The statistics on child-rearing. Only 9.4% of men said they took primary responsibility for their kids.
So what do women think the division of labor is? Here’s where things get even more interesting.
In general, wives agreed with their husbands that they’re generally useless. Women said they take on primary responsibility the majority of the time in a broad range of categories, including cooking (89.3%), laundry (84.2%), cleaning (80.7%), washing dishes (78.0%), shopping (77.4%), and household finances (58.9%).
What’s interesting is the gaps between men and women’s perceived experiences. Half of men said they take on dishwashing, for example – but 78% of women said it’s mainly their job.
The most shocking gap comes in childcare. Remember, only 9.4% of men said they had primary responsibility for child-rearing. But only 45.2% of women said it was their main job. That means the rest view it at best as a shared responsibility…but their husbands don’t see it that way.
Who’s happy with this housework division? (You’ll never guess)
Finally, FLIE asked both men and women if they’re happy with how housework is handled. Overall, 58.3% of survey respondents said they were.
But let’s see how that breaks down when we separate the answers by gender, shall we?
It will not shock you to learn that 73.8% of men are very (40.2%) or somewhat (33.6%) happy with this division of labor. Only 46% of women can say the same. 33.9% of women say they’re either somewhat (23.5%) or extremely (10.4%) unhappy with the amount of housework they shoulder. Almost 20% ranked themselves as noncommittal.
Clearly, the housework balance remains tilted against women in Japan. I expect this to remain a hot topic as the trend toward dual-income households continues.
What to read next
フリエ住まい総研. FLIE Magazine