Only 0.5 percent of male private-sector company workers took paternity leave in fiscal 2004, down from 0.56 percent the year before, a health ministry survey said Wednesday.

“There is in the workplace an atmosphere that discourages men from taking such leave,” said a ministry official, who added many men also seem to have no idea they are entitled to such leave.

The figure for men in the year to March 2005 again fell far short of the 10 percent target set by the government.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry asked 10,025 firms to respond to its survey, but got answers from 7,554.

Of the men who took child-care leave, 65.8 percent said they took between one month and less than three months and 31.7 percent took less than a month.

Women tend to take longer child-care leave than men. The largest group of female private-sector company workers who took maternity leave took between 10 months and less than a year.

The survey found 72.3 percent of female workers took maternity leave, up 1.7 points from the previous year.

Temporary workers have also become able to take maternity leave since April last year due to a legal revision. But of the women who took maternity leave, only 7.5 percent were temps.

As 40 percent of female workers in Japan between the ages of 25 and 34 are temporary workers, they appear to find it generally difficult to take maternity leave.

The government set targets of 10 percent for men and 80 percent for women to take child-care leave in its 2004 plan devised to support children and child-rearing efforts.

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