ESRI Discussion Paper Series No.311
Analysis of Employment, Childbirth, Childrearing and Living Conditions of Married Women: Empirical Evidence from Survey Data

Hiroki Sato
Professor, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo
Yukiko Asai
Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo Research Associate
Shizuka Takamura
Academic Support Specialist, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo
Tomohiro Takami
Researcher, The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training
Chihoko Asada
Former Executive Research Fellow, Economic and Social Research Institute, Cabinet Office
Aki Iijima
Former Research Fellow, Economic and Social Research Institute, Cabinet Office


Less and late marriage and declining fertility of married couples are considered to be factors behind Japanese falling birth rate. The change in couple’s reproductive behavior is possibly related to couples’ economic and living situation including employment status of wives, educational aspiration, and stress of wives and husbands’ involvement in family affairs.

With a view to examine married couples’ low fertility, Economic and Social Research Institute conducted a survey of married women of 25 to 39 years old with children under 6 years old or no child. Data was segmented in 8 groups by number of children and employment status. Questions included employment and living situation and desired number of children. Part 1 of the Discussion Paper is the explanation of purpose and method of the survey with its main result. Part 2 presents the result of four different analysis using micro-data of the survey. Main findings are as follows;

1) Why is the intention to have first baby weaker in wives in fixed term employment than in wives in regular employment? What determines the first baby intention of wives in regular and non-regular employment?

To understand the difference in the intention to have first baby between regular employment wives and fixed-term employment wives, effects of regular and non-regular employment gaps in i) economic situation ii) family-friendly arrangements in workplace iii) child-care availability were examined. While regular and non-regular gaps in husband’s low income incidence and workplace family-friendly arrangement contributed to widen the difference in first baby intention between the two groups, general household economic situation and child-care availability did not contribute the difference.

Family friendly workplace arrangement and child-care availability had clear positive effect to first baby intention of wives in regular employment. For wives in fixed-term employment, family-friendly workplace arrangement had weak positive effect to first baby intention, while no effect of child-care availability was observed.

2) Continuation of regular employment, motivation to continue working at the time of graduation and early career experience

Women who had stronger motivation at the time of graduation to continue working in their life course tend to continue regular employment longer. Employers provide OJT opportunities to female employees whose return to human capital investment is higher or to those who are expected to keep working longer. While effect of OJT experience in early career to raise the probability of regular employment continuation was not confirmed, early OJT experience contributed to higher wage in later career to some extent.

3) Educational aspiration for children and intention to have children

Firstly, negative relation was found between ideal number of children and educational aspiration for children in the group of wives in regular employment. Secondly, educational aspiration tends to be high in wives with high education. It is even higher when wife income is high or the wife had good career experience. Thirdly, there was no significant evidence to suggest positive relation between perception of economic burden of childrearing as heavy and high educational aspiration. Fourthly, educational aspiration had negative relation with intended number of children only in groups of wives in fixed-term employment and wives without occupation. Fifthly, intended number of children had negative relation with perceived economic burden of childrearing only in group of wives without occupation

4) Burden of wives in childcare period, relationship with husband and intention to have more children

Most women in childcare period take childcare positively. However, their incidence of “being irritated” in everyday life is higher than wives with no children. Quite a lot of mothers feel some sort of burden. Among mothers with one child, “being irritated” is related to neutral or negative perception of childrearing, which can possibly weaken the intention to have additional children. Along with number and age of children and mother’s education-mind, husbands’ involvement in family affairs has impact on the burden of childcare perceived by mothers. Husbands’ shouldering housework and childcare is an important support to wives in regular employment. However, lack of support is not the only problem to mothers. If husbands are too busy at work, they are not set free from work strain even at home. Husbands’ such mental conditions increase the burden of wives.

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