Saturday, December 01, 2007

Japanese marriage: structural reform for happiness

My friend April sent me this link to the Washington Post article on Japanese husbands signing up for classes on how to be nice to their wives, with a verdict: "depressing." The article goes on to explain that because of new legislation mandating that divorced spoused were entitled to 50% of any expected pension of the wage-earning spouse, Japanese wives were suddenly thinking that perhaps they didn't need to put up with husbands who had been so absent from their family lives that they were dependent strangers upon retirement.

I suppose it's depressing in a way that legislation like this should have triggered a 6.1 increase in divorce since going into effect in April of this year, since it speaks to an underlying unhappiness in the home. Even before the legislation, wives had taken to calling their husbands "bulk trash" because they hung around the house with nothing to do after retirement and got in their wives' way.

But from my point of view, since I've been keenly aware of the unhappiness rife in so many Japanese marriages, the spike in divorces, and the corresponding rush of husbands to classes to teach them how to be nice to their wives to avoid divorce, is evidence of structural reform triggered by the right legislation. And unlike most of the structural reform efforts I observed and participated in developing at the World Bank, this one may actually increase happiness--which I'm beginning to think should be the objective and measure of all development. Easy enough to toss out in an irresponsible blog post, perhaps--but worth thinking about ...

BTW I highly recommend watching the video of the National Chauvinistic Assn at the WaPo.

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