Professional Women and Elder Care in Contemporary Japan: Anxiety and the Move Toward Technocare




Hyperaging, Japan, Lifecourse, Robotic Care, Social Robots


The elder population in Japan is increasing drastically, causing a number of issues that have not yet surfaced in most Western countries. Demographic data from Japan reveal that the Japanese have the longest lifespan globally, resulting in the world’s highest population of older adults. Concurrently, the country has a rapidly declining birth rate. As the population ages, the workforce is shrinking and leaving a high number of elders with fewer caregivers to meet their needs. At present, the Japanese government is developing robotic care solutions to overcome the elder care labor shortage and implementing a new agenda to introduce social robots into the field. This article discusses professional women in Japan and their burden of caring for aging relatives and how introducing robotic care devices might reduce current anxieties regarding the provision of elder care. It analyzes the elder care strategies of 12 white-collar professional women in their forties and fifties and examines the extent to which gendered, expected at-home caregiving affects their professional commitments and associated anxieties. The findings below provide crucial insight into the most effective strategies that can be used by Japanese women to balance their careers with responsibilities to care for older relatives, particularly when it is impossible to predict the intensity of caregiving in the future.

Author Biography

Anne Aronsson, Yale University

Anne Aronsson is an anthropologist of Japan and obtained her PhD in socio-cultural anthropology from Yale University. She was a postdoctoral fellow with a Suslowa-Postdoc-Fellowship grant at the University of Zurich in Switzerland where she taught a seminar course "Global Processes in East Asia." Currently at Yale she works on her postdoctoral project on elder care in Japan and the use of robotic care devices, with a focus on social robots and emerging emotional technologies as well as teach two courses. Anne has authored several publications, including "Social Robots in Elderly Care: The Turn Toward Machines in Contemporary Japan," in the special issue "Relations, Entanglements, and Enmeshments of Humans and Things: A Materiality Perspective" in Japanese Review of Cultural Anthropology; "Conceptualizing Robotic Agency: Social Robots in Elder Care in Contemporary Japan" and introductory chapter in the special issue "Finding Agency in Nonhumas" published in Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism based on an international conference organized together with Fynn Holm and Melissa Kaul at the University of Zurich; "Multispecies Entanglements in the Virosphere: Rethinking the Anthropocene in Light of the 2019 Coronavirus Outbreak," co-authored with Fynn and published in The Anthropocene Review; and her monograph Career Women in Contemporary Japan: Pursuing Identities, Fashioning Lives published with Routledge Contemporary Japan Series.


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