In Japan, Bosses Are Telling Women When to Get Pregnant

The United States may have one of the worst maternity and family leave policies in the world but at least U.S. bosses can’t tell their workers when to (and not to) get pregnant. In Japan, where work place conditions are often harsh and workers can be under immense pressure to perform, it’s not uncommon for bosses to “schedule” when their employees are allowed to get pregnant.

While Japan does have a generous leave policy, many workplaces fail to make appropriate accommodations for getting work done when an employee is out with their new baby. As a result, workplaces institute these restrictive policies in an attempt to ensure that there aren’t multiple women out of the office on leave at any given time. In a culture that values hierarchy in the workplace, these schedules are often made with the preferences of the workers in the highest roles in mind while women in lower status roles typically have no say in when they are “scheduled.” In the workplaces in which these schedules are made, the rules and dictations they state can be harshly enforced and workers who find themselves pregnant out of turn may be forced to apologize and may risk other repercussions.


Recently, this upsetting trend has come under scrutiny after a Japanese woman who became pregnant before her scheduled time was forced to apologize to her boss and her co-workers and then began experiencing harassment and rude comments at work. These policies are wrong for a number of reasons: first and foremost, the only person who should have any say in a woman’s reproductive choices her herself. For a workplace to even be talking about when a woman will have a baby is majorly unacceptable.

A second issue with these policies is that many women don’t have complete control over when they become pregnant. Even women who are actively trying to conceive don’t know how long it will take- most couples only have about a 20% chance of conceiving each month they try. Japanese officials should take action to ban workplaces from dictating when women can become pregnant. Until they do women will have to stand up and demand better from the places that employ them.

Have you experienced anything like this in your workplace? Have your plans regarding pregnancy and birth been criticized or discussed by work superiors? 

What do you think?

In Japan, Bosses Are Telling Women When to Get Pregnant

Julia Pelly has a master's degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. She is writing a memoir on pregnancy, motherhood, and sisterhood and lives in North Carolina, with her husband and two young boys. ... More

Tell us what you think!


Send this to a friend