Babysitting Services in Japan
Finding The Right Partner To Care For Your Child
A guide into the best babysitting services in Tokyo.
In a country that is trying to cling tightly to the traditional notions of home, family and motherhood, the demand in Japan for babysitting services is booming and the need for it is far outstripping the supply. This trend is driven by the ever increasing number of women who are enlisted in the workforce. Sometimes expected to work up to 12 hours a day and devote their free time to social activities for their company, working mothers often find themselves unable to pick up their children in the early evening from daycare centers and nursery schools.
Meanwhile, husbands are often still toiling in the office or entertaining clients late into the evening. Thus, working mothers often have to use babysitting services—a system still relatively new to Japan, where an invitation to the home is considered an intimacy not easily shared with strangers, and where the idea of mothers delegating child-care duties to strangers is considered somewhat distasteful.
Professional babysitting in Japan emerged in the 1970s when working women began taking on more professional responsibilities in the office. As the Japanese extended family began withering away, asking a professional to look after the children started to become more acceptable when parents had to attend important social engagements. Babysitting became even more popular in the late 1980s, with the enactment of equal employment law. In recent years, the Japanese government has started to expand public daycare services, and some municipal bodies have even started offering subsidies to working couples who hire babysitters.
However, hiring a babysitter in Japan remains a privilege reserved for high-income earners, and is nowhere near as popular as it is in Western countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, some families are forced to use babysitters due to a shortage of after-school nurseries. Some believe that a babysitter could help inject a dose of fresh air into a typical Japanese home, which can sometimes be known for its seclusion. This is particularly true today, in an ever-increasing international environment, where English education is at the forefront of most Japanese parents’ minds.
Babysitting providers offer a range of services, including international babysitters who speak many languages, overnight babysitters who can support parents who work night shifts, and babysitters who can come to travelers’ hotels in major cities around Japan. Children of all ages—from new-born babies to junior high school kids—can benefit from the service, which gives parents much more flexibility and can help children to develop a more global mind.
Prices start from a very reasonable ¥2,000 to ¥3,000 per hour, but it may be worth signing up for an annual membership to a service, as this often considerably lowers the hourly rate. Also worth noting is that the service is more expensive early in the morning or late at night (usually after 10 p.m.). Any extras, such as accompanying kids on trips, bathing, and household tasks, are possible but can also incur an extra charge. Some companies even offer help to expectant mothers.
While a few isolated tragedies have occurred—such as the death earlier this year of a two-year-old boy who was in the care of a babysitter in Saitama Prefecture—these cases are rare, and babysitting is usually a very safe option in Japan.
Although anyone can work as a babysitter without formal qualifications, and no state or prefectural qualifying examinations exist, reliable babysitting companies employ strict systems to filter employees. The firms often use a multi-tiered screening process, and assess candidates from many angles and in a number of different situations to ensure the safety of children in their care. Some companies even require employees to complete special babysitter training, etiquette training, and emergency life-saving training programs.
Looking to the future, the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare is planning to introduce a system whereby municipalities will certify those who have undergone training as babysitters and give subsidies to companies that employ certified babysitters. The scheme is scheduled to start from fiscal 2015. Meanwhile, the recently launched iSitter application can help parents find a reliable babysitter. Both babysitters and parents sign up using their Facebook account, and parents can choose their own babysitter. The free-to-use app conducts background checks on newly registered babysitters to verify names, and takes a cut from any babysitting session it helps organize.
Here are a few babysitting companies in Japan that offer services in English: