2004 Volume 71 Issue 4 Pages 382-398
This paper compares Japan and 5 societies in East and Southeast Asia to clarify the factors underlying the childcare problems in contemporary Japan. Mothers continue to work when their children are small with no serious problem of childcare stress in most of our research areas. Our first question is how these societies overcome possible childcare problems we are suffering from in Japan. Our second question is whether these Asian societies will experience the "housewifization" of women and the privatization of childcare that might cause similar kinds of childcare problems as in Japan. This paper answers these questions based on the results of the international joint research project, "A comparative study of gender in Asian societies" (2001∼03), in which fourteen sociologists, including the authors of this paper, engaged. This project compares the patterns of female life course and social networks for childcare support in 5 societies with a special focus on the urban middle class recently established in various areas in Asia. Our conclusion is; (1) The most effective supporter for childcare is kin in most Asian societies. (2) The second most effective supporters are domestic workers in many societies. (3) Various kinds of effective networks exist in the societies where mothers with small children usually work (especially in China and Singapore). (4) Support networks are poor and weak in the societies where mothers with small children usually stay at home (Korea and Japan). We also observe the trends of "housewifization" of women in working-mother societies due to unemployment, insufficient childcare facilities, or the emphasis on the new roles of mothers such as "mothers as care givers" or as "mothers as educators."