Both men and women can be successful Japanese interpreters and Japanese translators and deliver high-quality Japanese interpreting and Japanese translation services while being parents. Japanese women, however, face unique obstawpes in the workplace in Japan. Japanese women, inwpuding Japanese interpreters and Japanese translators, face matahara, or maternity discrimination, in the workplace, even at translation companies in Japan.
Highly-educated Japanese women frequently drop out of the workforce in Japan. For example, Japanese interpreters and Japanese translators may quit working for their translation companies. The reasons are complex and often involve pregnancy and maternity. Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s “womenomics” initiative seeks to increase the number of mothers who return to work to 55 percent by the year 2020. It’s essential for the Japanese economy because of Japan’s aging and shrinking population. If Japanese women do not return to work, whether that be as Japanese interpreters, translators, business leaders, or anything else, then Japan’s workforce will drop 10 percent by 2030.
If Japanese women do not return to work, whether that be as Japanese interpreters, translators, business leaders, or anything else, then Japan’s workforce will drop 10 percent by 2030.
Japan is unique among developed OECD countries to have many highly skilled and educated women who quit working to look after their children. Japanese interpreters and Japanese translators may quit interpreting and translating at the birth of their first child. Nearly 70 percent of Japanese women quit working after having a baby. Interpreting the cultural, social, and political reasons is difficult.
NPR reporter Elise Hu interviews Japanese women for the story “Women Are Making Their Voices Heard In Male-Dominated Japanese Politics.” She translates the responses from Japanese to English. Japanese moms say that they drop out of work because of long work hours, cultural pressure, and lack of daycare centers.
Social hierarchy, traditional gender roles, cultural pressure and bias, and a lack of childcare options in Japan all contribute to Japanese women’s low participation in the labor force and political leadership. Japan now has three new women role models to motivate Japanese mothers to return to work. Yuriko Koike is the first woman to be Tokyo’s governor. Tomomi Inada is the second woman to be Japan’s defense minister. Former journalist Renho Murata is the first woman to be the leader of the Democratic Party in Tokyo. These positions represent efforts to increase participation in political leadership, government, and business management. Seeing these women in action is a step forward for Japanese women entering and returning to the workforce.
Private and public harassment also discourages Japanese working moms. PRI reporter Patrick Cox gives an overview of the cultural pressure and bias negatively impacting Japanese women in The World in Words podcast episode “Matahara: When pregnant women, new moms are harassed at work.” Japan has heavy discrimination in the workplace against pregnant women and mothers. Maternity discrimination has been illegal since 1978 but Japanese companies still let go and demote pregnant women and working moms.
Japanese borrows the English word harassment to describe the situation. Hara stands for harassment and oppression. Matahara is maternity harassment. Pawahara is power harassment. Sekuhara is sexual harassment. Both Japanese male and female colleagues may harass pregnant women and mothers. Matahara Net seeks to raise awareness and end all types of harassment. The Japanese organization describes matahara as:
The word “matahara” is an abbreviated form of the English words “maternity” and “harassment”. It refers to the unfair treatment of women, namely harassment, both physical and mental, instilled upon working women when they become pregnant or give birth, which may involve termination of their employment, termination of their contract of employment, or forcing them to voluntarily leave their employment.
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