Mao Saito is Professor of Family Sociology at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto in Japan, and came to University of Sheffield as Visiting Researcher in September 2018. Her research area is mainly care and gender, changes to family structure, care ethics, and social policy. She has been particularly interested in the increase in the number of male carers and the complicated relationship between care and masculinity.
There is evidence that the quantitative increase of male carers does not automatically improve quality of care and gender equality. As part of her work in this field, she is an organiser of “the National Network of Male Carers and Supporters” in Japan, which was established in 2009. This organisation promotes gender-specific support programs in order to improve both quality of care and gender equality in caring. This typically takes the form of practical activities such as help to learn cookery and domestic skills, and peer support groups.
The nature of care in East Asian countries, including Japan, is classified as a Familialism in welfare regime. Although the Long-Term Care Insurance System was introduced in Japan in 2000, the family continues to have the primary responsibility for caring. The introduction of support systems for carers is an urgent issue common to many East Asian nations, where population aging is significant problem.
In 2017 she started an international research project on support for carers at both policy and informal practical level in East Asian countries with researchers in South-Korea and Taiwan. In Sheffield she is going to expand her research on policy and practical support for carers, comparing between European countries and East Asian countries, as well as comparison within countries in East Asia.
She is also a parent carer of a child with Down’s Syndrome, and she is interested in the effect new technologies such as NIPT (Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing) have on people’s choices and on their lives and on their need for, and use of, care.