Sep 27, 2016

    Japan mums want to study during maternity leave


    WOMEN in Japan are increasingly obtaining qualifications that help them with their jobs even as they take time off from work to raise children.

    Some are also pursuing subjects unrelated to their work.

    The practice has been lauded for giving women more confidence when they return to the workforce. But it is not easy to balance childcare and study.

    Yuki Takatsu, 34, has added studying to be a high-level certified financial planner to her daily routine after giving birth to her daughter Riko in March.

    "I felt uneasy and restless about being away from work for a long time and decided to study while taking parental leave," said Ms Takatsu, who works at Nippon Life Insurance.

    In July last year, English conversation school company Gaba conducted a survey on 1,000 working mothers in their 20s to 40s who had children of primary school age or younger.

    It found that 33 per cent had studied for qualifications or upskilling while on maternity or parental leave.

    This trend was even stronger among younger respondents, with 46 per cent of mothers in their 20s gaining additional skills while on leave.

    The most popular areas of study were English, cooking and computer skills.

    Tomoko Hirota of the education website Keiko to Manabu said that more women are educating themselves "out of concern that their skills will deteriorate while they're on leave".

    "Parental leave is a time to focus on nurturing a child, but it's increasingly becoming a time to nurture oneself as well," she added.

    Despite that, studying while caring for a child is not easy.

    A 35-year-old insurance company employee in Chiba tried studying book-keeping and English through correspondence courses while raising her first child, but things did not go according to plan.

    "I'd sit down to study, thinking, 'I've got to get this done,' but then my child would start fussing, and I'd get agitated and start to feel guilty," she said.

    Ms Hirota advised mothers to wait about six months to settle into a routine with her child before gradually setting aside time to study.

    "Don't worry if things don't go exactly as planned. Go easy on yourself and do your best."