Japanese fathers should take more responsibility in family affairs, allowing females to better participate in the labor force, according to the visiting Finnish social affairs minister.

“The main thing is the reconciliation of work and family life,” Sinikka Monkare, minister of social affairs and health, told a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday. “We say the Nordic welfare system is the best friend of women.”

Japan and Finland share the problem of having two of the world’s most rapidly aging populations. But Japan is seen as being behind in gender equality in the workforce and social welfare, especially in care for children and the elderly.

Monkare said having full social services to care for children, the sick and the elderly is the most effective method to enable women to work. It is also important to encourage men to take more responsibility in taking care of the family, such as taking paternal leave, she said.

On concerns that high taxation is needed to fund extensive social welfare, Monkare said that in Finland, tax money is used correctly for welfare services and the public is willing to pay more in taxes to get better public health care.

Monkare is scheduled to visit Sendai on Saturday for the completion of the Finnish Wellbeing Center, a joint project between the city and Finland. Based on the Finnish idea of service housing for the elderly, the facility will begin accepting elderly residents later this year.

Monkare is on a four-day visit to Japan, her first such visit, accompanied by Finnish President Tarja Halonen. The Finnish delegation met with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Wednesday, as well as Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on Thursday morning.

Gyurcsany to visit

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany will make a three-day visit to Japan beginning Monday, according to the Foreign Ministry.

He plans to meet Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko the same day, it said.

Gyurcsany will meet House of Representatives Speaker Yohei Kono and Chikage Ogi, president of the House of Councilors, on Tuesday, it said.

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