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Japan study shows huge gap in child care burden among female and male doctors

From left, Tokyo Medical University President Yukiko Hayashi and Tokyo Women's Medical University professor Kumiko Karasawa who took charge of a survey on gender equality among doctors are seen during a news conference announcing the results at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare building in Tokyo, on May 17, 2022. Association of Japan Medical Colleges Chairman Yukio Yuzawa is seen to the right. (Mainichi/Haruna Okuyama)

TOKYO -- Over 30% of female doctors with children in Japan have experienced a period in which they were shouldering 100% of child care by themselves, a recent study has shown.

    The research was conducted by the Association of Japan Medical Colleges and the results were announced on May 17. It highlighted the fact that a certain number of doctors who are also mothers have been forced to experience "one-operation child care" in which one parent handles all household chores as well as caring for their children.

    The study targeted doctors at university hospitals and other medical institutions between December 2020 and February 2021 and received responses from 5,003 doctors, of which about 40% were women.

    When asked about the proportion of child care they have shared with their partners, 31.8% of female respondents said "100%" while 55.2% said they took on "80% or more," meaning that 87% of female doctors shouldered at least 80% of child care. Among male doctors, meanwhile, 8.4% answered that they handled "100%" of child care, while 14.5% said "80% or more," revealing a huge gap between female and male doctors.

    In addition, around 40% of all respondents said they were "unsatisfied" about their work-life balance, with some saying that "the workload is a major burden" and that they were "pressed by time constraints."

    Yukiko Hayashi, Tokyo Medical University president who was involved in the research, argued that women taking much of child care responsibilities has become "a bottleneck for female doctors' advancement." She added, "An awareness update among those in the leadership positions is crucial to bring about gender equality in child care and housework."

    (Japanese original by Haruna Okuyama, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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