'Selfish' Woman Faces Backlash From Boss for Getting Pregnant

Story out of Japan highlights 'matahara,' aka 'maternity harassment'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2018 2:01 PM CDT
In Japan, women often have to clear pregnancies first with their bosses.   (Getty Images/AntonioGuillem)

(Newser) – In Japan, some employers are strict on the perks of seniority—including the issue of which workers should be allowed to marry and get pregnant first. That's why, in a Feb. 28 letter to the Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun, one man says his wife became "glum and anxious" when she found out she was with child, as it wasn't her "turn" at the child care center she works at in Aichi prefecture, per the Telegraph. The director at his wife's workplace, the man writes, had set up marriage and pregnancy "shifts" for employees, and it was an "unspoken rule" that workers who were more senior got first dibs on diaper duty. And so when the man and his wife went together to reveal the pregnancy and apologize, his wife was "chided" for acting so "selfishly." This isn't an uncommon phenomenon in Japan; there's even a term for it: matahara, or "maternity harassment," and it's apparently a big issue.

A 2015 government survey noted half of all Japanese working women were harassed when they became pregnant, with 20% losing their jobs altogether. The reasoning behind the taking-turns mandate often has to do with a dearth of workers in certain industries, per USA Today. The Telegraph cites a 26-year-old woman in the cosmetics industry who was told she'd have to wait till she was 35 or so to have a child; she says she and other female colleagues were given childbirth schedules, along with a warning that "selfish behavior will be subject to punishment." In this most recent case, however, the rule-breaking woman has the public on her side (her husband's letter elicited much support), as well as her husband. His letter cites the "respect" he has for his wife, and that "the conditions of those working to nurture and care for children are evidence of a backward country," per the Telegraph. (Read more Japan stories.)

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