Organized Panel Session
In extremely low fertility Japan, public policy at all levels has focused on decreasing the childrearing burden for the parents of young children and making parenthood less burdensome financially and socially. Attempts to address these barriers are multifaceted, mostly aimed at women, who do a majority of the tasks of childrearing, and identified by the phrase ‘childrearing support’. Nationally, childrearing support policies have resulted in increased numbers of daycare and after school programs, incentivized the birth of children through free or reduced healthcare costs for children and pregnant women, expanded maternity/paternity and sick leave policies, and improved the labor market prospects for women before and after the birth of children. These policies, propagated at national, prefectural and municipal levels, though, have not led to significant upswing in fertility rates. Childrearing support policies (and earlier iterations called ‘low fertility rate countermeasures’) have, in part, failed to impact fertility because of a lack of recognition of the complexities of childrearing support utilized by parents. To map and account for childrearing tasks, the paper presents the ethnographic study of the ‘childrearing support’ networks mothers of young children create and utilize, focusing on the character of the networks and the resources exchanged within them. As a foil to the financial incentive based response to declining fertility, these networks point to an important conclusion: women rearing young children rely on social, not economic, capital to make decisions about fertility and family.