"Matahara" - a term abbreviated from the term "maternity harassment". It is a term which describes redundancy, demotion or other harassment in workplace.

A well-occurring problem in Japan, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare have carried out a survey related to Matahara for the first time during September and October 2015. Covering the ages 25-44, the result was as follows.

When asking Matahara victims the type of problems they faced, 47% of them were told pregnancy was a hassle, or were suggested they should quit the job. 20% of Matahara victims were actually fired; 15% of them were forced to resign or switch to become an "irregular" employee.

Temporary staff were most affected by Matahara, with 48% of the people claiming to have become Matahara victims, while percentages of full-time staff victims were 21%, contract staff 13%, and part-timers 5%.

19% of them were harassed by their direct male supervisor, while 11% were by their direct female supervisor.

Sourced from NHK news web

The scope of the survey was small - it is expected that even more women may be subjected to such harassment in reality.

What kinds of opinions are there related to Matahara? Here are some we found online.

From those who were victims of Matahara

I worked as a temp staff at the same place for 3 years

Because I'm pregnant, my contract might be terminated before obtaining maternity leave. On the surface, they blame poor business, I'm actually the only one who didn't get a contract renewal. And the timing's suspicious - 3 weeks after I've told the company I was pregnant. I worked here for 3 years and they do this to me...

Told "renewal will not happen" 3 days before contract expiry

3 days before I was due for a contract renewal, I was told my contract will not be renewed... They were asking me whether I would take social insurance until a couple of months before I tell them about my pregnancy. This is Matahara - I wonder what I should do... It's tough being told with only 3 days to go.

How much do women have to put up?

Matahara issues make me think... My friend didn't get fired, but she was 'stolen' her job from her coworkers, only to be told that pregnant women can't and won't do anything. That's unforgivable - how much do women have to put up?

Others had to endure these kinds of treatment:

  • I told my boss I was pregnant, and he said "to be honest, that's a pain for us". Can he say the same thing to his mother and his wife?
  • My friend was told by the president of the company where she works "we don't have enough resources - could you either 'drop' your child or quit the job?" She quit the job, but that president is actually a woman.
  • "You can put up with morning sickness - I was working until the last month of pregnancy" said my female boss. Well, she needs to know every woman is different!

Some of these are unbearably poor - and it shows a grave situation in some workplaces.

Where do issues lie?

Many people online believes that in order to help eliminate the Matahara issue is to change the way people in Japan think about work.

Woman: I want to leave office on time; Company: we can't make you a special case

Although on national TV they show a boss telling a pregnant staff they cannot allow just pregnant woman to leave work on time. But going home on time is a right given by Labor Standards Act. And it seems that a government-funded television station doesn't agree with that.

People should understand how hard it is to bring a child to life

The problem is that there is a concept of Matahara in the first place. People should understand how difficult it is to give birth. The society must be a lot nicer to each other. Men should also be able to take childcare leave easily - there's too much burden placed on women.

Although the so-called "maternity harassment" may not be Japan-specific issue, there are many social attitudes that need to change in order to improve the issue. Those society-related problems in Japan are too deep and complex to be discussed in this article, but they are definitely something that need addressing soon.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.