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Working Style for women.
Translation of the article on Nikkei Woman.



September 28, 2009



Such a significant difference depending on work style

Working Woman’s lifetime earnings simulation

Same at start, but more than 100 million yen difference in the end

Working women regard childbirth as a major turning point in their work life.  Now, we estimate the difference in lifetime earnings that regular employees, who make up 70% of our readers, made in their work style as a result of childbirth.

The result is about a 100-million yen difference in lifetime earnings for a woman who takes childcare leave at age 28, resigns from the company, and then works again a year later but as a non-regular worker.  A contributing factor is that non-regular employees rarely expect salary increases in general.  “If you keep your regular employment while raising a child, you can get not only the higher earnings but also confidence in your social life.” said Yuko Aoshima, Associate Professor, Josai Junior College.

If you chose temporary or freelance work, you should be aware of a significant disadvantage in earnings and pension amount, and you will have to steadily save money.  “Young people in their 20s, who only know recession, wisely make ends meet with their little living expenses whereas people in their late 30s lavishly spend money and some of them realize they have little savings one day.” said Yumi Murase, Financial Planner.

We are in an age when even regular employees can be fired someday.  “It is important to make every effort to improve your skills like freelancers do in order to secure your earnings.” said Ms Murase.

Regular employee until retirement

Life time earnings are at top

Yet need risk control

Unlike those who change their work style, regular employees earn more than 200 million yen in their lifetime with a higher pension level, the top amount among working women, providing the most secured lifestyle.  We made the estimate based on the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry “2007 Summary Report of Basic Survey on Wage Structure”.  According to this survey, income tends to decrease after peaking in the late 40s,  yet this depends on managerial position, industry sector or job type.  Even without assuming any managerial position, employees are securely paid and receive a large retirement allowance if they work until 60 years old.

The hardest part is the first one or two years after returning to work following childcare leave.  A regular employee can often work until late at night, not allowing enough time for childcare depending on the job.  “During these toughest years, you should not try too hard and you can take a plunge to spend money for a babysitter and/or homemaking services, or to move near your office.  You may worry that most of your earning is going to childcare.  However, if you keep working as a regular employee, you can expect a secure income and you can regard it as a necessary investment for a short period of your life.” said Professor Aoshima.

Regular employee to non-regular employee

Easy to secure time for childcare
Cannot expect income increase

Many former regular employees chose to work as a temporary staff  for re-employment after childbirth.  In this work style, they can leave the office on time, ensuring there is time for childcare.  However, it is often the case that they need to work for long hours like their regular colleagues, yet their pay is kept low, and their pay increase is a tenth that of a regular employee even if they work for many years.   “Temporary work has a grim outlook in terms of uninterrupted job opportunities until you become 60 years old.” said Professor Aoshima.

For those who live with someone making a living and values their time for hobbies and childbearing rather than earnings, the temporary work style has advantages.  Still, they should keep savings enough to be able to live for six months without income in case of a sudden firing.  It is important to work “more than three forth the hours of regular employees” to be eligible for the employee pension, not the national pension.

Regular employee to childbearing to new regular employee

The longer the absence, the less the chance for reemployment
Avoid “reduced capacity” during childbearing as much as possible

Many women would like to devote themselves to childbearing for several years and then come back as a regular employee.  Yet, this decision requires careful planning, since, according to estimates, their life time earnings is 40 millions yen less than regular workers without interruption.  Additionally, considering the possibility to get a new position, “a six-year absence is too long” said Professor Aoshima. According to the 2006 White Paper on National Lifestyle, the longer the period a woman is out of work for childbearing, the lower the re-employment rate is.  “For a specialist, there is a possibility to work as a regular, but, for a clerical position, it is quite hard to find.” said, Ms. Murase.

When you re-start working after a long interval, you may easily fall into a situation where you feel things are completely different from what you were familiar with.  According to the above White Paper, many people feel their PC skill or project proposal ability has declined when they come back after more than two years.  On the other hand, it seems that their customer facing ability and communication skills haven’t easily deteriorated.   It may be a short avenue to get a regular position if you acquire qualifications and skills during the childcare period as well as if you come back earlier as a non-regular worker.

Regular employee to freelance

Insecure but earning increase depends on ability
Steadily save to prepare for post-retirement years with a lower pension

The estimated lifetime earnings of this work style is ranked at the bottom, but the amount differs depending on the job family or the amount of work.  It can be stated the ability will decide the earning amount.  Yet, in most of her work life, a freelancer joins the national pension system, earning a lower pension.   “Because of the low pension, you should steadily save money.  It is comfortable to have 30 million yen for your old age.” said Ms. Murase.  Freelancers can join the national pension fund system to close the gap with the employee pension.  “It may be a high risk to get unstable payments but it is a recession-proof work style to be able to earn on your own ability.”  said Ms. Murase.  Freelancers don’t have to worry about lay-offs or firings, and they should always have a job if they diversify their contract partners.

One of the main advantages of the freelance style is that there are many who feel a happiness through their work that money can’t buy.  “Many freelancers are creative, and this work is not for everyone. Freelancers are happy doing something they like, as a job.  If you are strict with yourself and always make efforts to improve your skills, then it can be a long-lasting work style.” said Professor Aoshima.

Note: This translation is my own.