Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Follow Up On Day Care Reform And Why We Should Care

I wrote a longish piece a while back on the government's plan to merge the nation's day care center system hoikuen with its kindergarten system yochien. I argued that reform of childcare want not a pressing issue, indeed it was unnecessary. I proposed that the merger was reform for reform's sake, the government feeling pressed to deliver on a change simply to show that it can.

There is now evidence that the major consumers of childcare have a strong antipathy to the government's plans. A Daichi Life Research Institute survey of the mothers with children attending yochien and hoikuen has found that both the mothers of both groups oppose the merger by a two-to-one margin. While the conventional wisdom holds that mothers with children in yochien, the system run by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology, are the most afraid of the merger because of its possible degrading the education experience, while mothers with children in the hoikuen would support the measure from the added education content carried in with the merger, the survey found that no statistically significant differences in between the reportedd support/do not support levels of the two sets of mothers.

Do you support the proposed merger of hoikuen and yochien systems?

Yochien children's mothers

Support 25.9%
Oppose 48.9%

Hoikuen children's mothers

Support 24.1%
Oppose 47.8%

One could question the survey's methodology, which consisted of mailed responses from 247 mothers with children in yochien and 274 with children at hoikuen from 547 childcare facilities. It is impossible to determine until the research institute itself releases its report to what extent the respondents were self-selective and what effect that might have on results.

So why care about this arcane reform? Why not concentrate on the big, hard reforms in military export rules, the post office, the consumption tax?

Let me see...

1) Article 15 of the Constitution.

2) A persistent and pernicious faith of many in the economic and business media-academic circles is that Japan lacks sufficient childcare facilities for the country's women to be full participants in the nation's economy, limiting Japan's potential for growth. The truth is that outside Tokyo and Kanagawa, where most of the nation's news makers and analysts live, the country has sufficient childcare facilities.

If women's talents are not being fully exploited, it can be due to far more difficult to eradicate sexism in entry and promotion into career-track employment. It can be due to continued high rates of wanting to quit to work after marriage (J - Figure 7) -- despite expectations in and encouragement from their future husbands to continue working (J). The peculiarly high rate of wishing to quit work after marriage (I have seen figures showing indeed an increase of this percentage during the 1990s) may be due in part to the discovery that working in a corporate environment sucks, a reality captured in NTT Docomo's brilliant and bewildering new Shinjin no kimi e commercial.

Corporations would really want to know what their women employees wish for and expect.

3) When a government pursue reforms that are not of primary importance and which have only meager public support, the indication is that a congenital failure exists to focus on the important and pressing, with a preference (even when members of the government are aware of its failings) to ticking items off of lists.

The other possibility is the existence of powerful consituencies whose personal interests are being allowed to take precedence over the national interest. It is salient to find out just who is being served by these changes, that one might know the interests to which a party is beholden.

1 comment:

Avery said...

I recently had a conversation on that topic, although I didn't cite your statistic and get into a statistical war. Instead, the conversation went like this:

"My professor explained how Japan doesn't have enough day cares to support all the children."

"You know, I've worked with mothers who have to put their toddlers in day care and leave them there all day, and I realized I don't like day care."

"...Me neither."