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Akizumi Tsutsumi


Background: Work style reform in Japan is under way in response to a predicted shortfall in the workforce owing to the country’s low birth rate and high longevity, health problems due to excessive working hours, and the need for diversification of employment. A legal limit for physicians’ overtime work will be introduced in 2024.
Objectives: This study examines the work–life balance among Japan’s doctors in the context of ongoing work style reform.
Methodology: The study applied included selective reviews of demographic shifts, legislation against long working hours, and trends in doctors’ participation in the labor force.
Results: Japan’s doctors work long hours, which creates a conflict between their working and private lives. The proportion of female doctors in Japan is the lowest among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. Employment trends among women doctors by age group show an M-curve: many quit their jobs upon marriage or childbirth. Gender role stereotyping has led male Japanese doctors to devote themselves entirely to their professions and working excessively long hours: they leave all family work to their female partners. This stereotyping obliges female doctors to undertake household chores in addition to their career tasks, which makes it difficult for them to re-enter their careers. Because of the harsh working conditions (including long working hours), there has been a decline in newly graduated doctors in some medical specialties.
Conclusions: For sustainable, effective health care in Japan, it is necessary to improve the work conditions for Japan’s doctors towards achieving work–life harmony.

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