In Japan, most little boys want to become professors when they grow up and little girls want to become bakers and bread makers, but not necessarily breadwinners. The results of this year’s annual nationwide survey of Japanese children on the topic, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” are a fascinating window into Japanese society.
The results also show the respect for knowledge and learning many have here, but also how women are still raised to fulfil very specific gender roles, mostly in supplementary jobs. The lack of commonality between what boys want to be and what girls want to be, also shows that the gender gap here starts at an early age.
Last year, Daichi-Life Insurance Company, Ltd surveyed children nationwide from pre-school to sixth-grade, asking them what they wanted to become as an adult. They analyzed 1,100 of the responses and released their report early this month.
For boys, the most desired job was scholar/doctorate level academic (学者・博士) at 8.8%. This was followed by baseball player, soccer player, doctor, police officer, carpenter, firefighter, food services. Other popular choices were architect, professional swimmer, driver (bus, train, car) and chef.
Japan has a deep-rooted history of respect for academia; teachers and school administrators are still treated with reverence. Schoolteachers are often greeted with the honorific sensei, a term also used to address doctors, lawyers and politicians. This may explain why scholar has consistently (but not always) been in the top ten choices for little boys since 1989.
Daichi-Life Insurance also conjectured that Japanese scientists winning Nobel prizes three years in a row (2014-2016), helped refocus attention on the prestige of being a scholar, pushing it to the top. One 6th grader, succinctly summed up the ambitions of the many boys who put man of letters as their first choice: “I want to become a scientist, find a method to completely cure cancer and win a Nobel prize.” Another boy wrote, “I want to become a scientist and make a robot that can play with children,” showing great ambition and perhaps a childhood awareness of the difficulty of combining AI and robotics successfully.
In a homologous 2015 survey, American boys wanted first and foremost to be professional athletes, followed by firefighter, engineer, and astronaut.
For Japanese girls, food services (tabemonoya-san/食べ物屋さん）such as bread-maker and baker remained at number one for the 21st year in a row. This was followed by nurse, pre-school or kindergarten teacher, and in fourth place was doctor. Other popular professions included school teacher, singer, celebrity, pharmacist, pet shop owner, animal trainer, dance teacher and designer.
One fourth grade girl commented on her top choice by saying, “I want to make delicious bread for the customers and make them smile.” Another wrote, “I want to make sweets that even people with illness can happily eat!”
In Japan, women are still taught they should be good cooks but “chef” (料理人) seems to be an ambition for men. Chef was in the top ten choices for boys but not for girls.
Koichi Nakano, a professor of political science at Sophia University, in Tokyo, feels the lack of ambition displayed by little girls is a dismaying sign.
“Why do little girls seem to resigned to supplementary career paths? Because Japan hasn’t made any social progress on gender discrimination since the 2000s. There has been no serious and sustained efforts to confront prejudice and stereotypes. If anything, ‘gender backlash’ has really pushed back the clock. Thus, ambitions are for boys, while cute and caring jobs are for girls. It’s simultaneously infuriating and depressing, actually, and in my opinion, accounts for the continuous decline of Japan’s economic standing.”
The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a lot of fuss about a female-centered economic policy aka “womenomics” and creating an society where Japanese women “can shine” since taking over in 2012, but as Forbes contributor Willie Pesek points out, little has changed. In fact, Japan’s gender equality ranking, was 114th in the World Economic Forum’s rankings for 2017, down three notches from 111th place in 2016. In terms of gender equality, Japan is the worst among the Group of Seven (G7) major economies.
There is a ray of hope that things might change. This year the percentage of girls who aspired to become doctors hit an all time high, 6.6%. When the survey was first conducted in 1989, doctor didn’t appear in the top ten choices for girls and didn’t show up in that range until 1993. It’s great to see that Japanese girls are realizing that if men can be doctors, so can they. In contrast to this, doctor was the number one choice for American girls (16%) in a similar survey in the United States published in 2015.
More Info: www.forbes.com
Categories: Money Matters