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Gender equality is under the spotlight in the UK this week after it was revealed that eight out of 10 companies (those with over 250 employees) pay men more than women.
Japan, which ranks 114th out of 144 countries in the global gender equality rankings, also hit the headlines after a male and female couple revealed the woman had been reprimanded for conceiving 'before their turn'.
The woman was criticised for 'selfishly breaking the rules' after becoming pregnant before her 'turn', the Telegraph reports.
She was working at a private childcare clinic in Aichi prefecture, roughly two hours from Kyoto.
According to The Telegraph, the husband wrote: "The director at the child care center where she works had determined the order in which workers could get married or pregnant, and apparently there was an unspoken rule that one must not take their 'turn' before a senior staff member."
Her pregnancy, the paper reports, supposedly clashed with "shifts" drawn by the childcare centre director which dictated when female staff could marry and have children.
The woman's husband went on to write that the 'conditions of those working to nurture and care for children are evidence of a backward country'.
Some companies in Japan operate a policy which dictates when staff may marry and have children based on their level of seniority. It is not limited to professionals working in childcare, and occurs in various industries.
The unnamed woman's case, which was publicised in a national newspaper, has risen to wide public attention, with many sympathetic to what has been regarded as mistreatment by her employers.
According to Matahara Net, Matahara, better known as maternity harassment, is the 'unfair treatment of women, namely harassment, both physical and mental, instilled upon working women when they become pregnant or give birth, which may involve termination of their employment, or forcing them to voluntarily leave their employment'.
One in five Japanese women is reported to have experienced matahara discrimination. The site reports that 60 per cent of women leave work when they become pregnant with their first child, with just over half returning to employment later.
The website argues that matahara is rooted in a gender-based division of roles mindset entrenched in Japanese society, along with the country's famously long working hours.
Companies where matahara tended to occur were often those where long "working hours are entrenched".
Speaking to The Telegraph, Dr Brigitte Steger, an expert on modern Japanese studies at Cambridge University, said: "The term matahara is used frequently.
"Women are being harassed for being selfish for taking time out to have children or look after them and for being inconsiderate towards their fellow employees - while women are also criticised for being selfish and not having children."
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