National

LDP lawmaker faces off against his party's old guard over child care leave plan

by Kanako Takahara

Staff Writer

Liberal Democratic Party Lower House lawmaker Kensuke Miyazaki wanted to do something to change the nation’s declining birthrate, so he announced last month he planned to take child care leave after his wife gives birth.

The representative from Kyoto’s No. 3 district now has another hurdle to overcome: changing the mindset of the LDP’s old guard, many of whom criticized his plan.

On Thursday, Hachiro Okonogi, the LDP’s deputy Diet affairs chief, told a regular news conference that male lawmakers taking child care leave was inappropriate.

“It’s about whether the public will approve of it,” he said.

Miyazaki, 34, wrote on his blog Thursday that he was beyond shocked by the negative comments coming out of his party, which included remarks that it was all a mere publicity stunt and that he should simply hire a nanny to take care of the baby.

“It is natural for parents to take care of a child from birth to the age of three, the most important period when a child is forming his or her personality,” Miyazaki said. “I can understand why the issue of the declining birthrate hasn’t made any headway.”

When contacted by The Japan Times for comment, Miyazaki said he couldn’t say anything because he was told not to. He did not say if the instruction came from LDP executives.

The LDP lawmaker, whose wife, fellow Lower House LDP member Megumi Kaneko, is due to give birth next month, said on the blog it was imperative for men to play a greater role in child-rearing when the government is trying to push more women into the workforce to overcome labor shortages.

Kaneko, for her part, plans to take three months off to take care of their child.

Miyazaki is planning to submit a proposal to the Lower House to change the rules to allow child care leave for all lawmakers.

Although the rules for Lower House members have a provision for maternity leave, there is no such measure for paternity leave. It is believed that no male lawmaker has ever taken a leave of absence to care for a child.

At present, the Kyoto lawmaker plans to report his absence each time the Lower House holds a plenary meeting, but hopes to participate in voting on important bills.

Still, Miyazaki has one influential and powerful LDP ally on his side.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his support for Miyazaki’s plan when the two met on Monday.

“There may be divided opinions but (what I’m doing is always) supported by half and opposed by the other half,” Abe told Miyazaki. “That is what a politician is about,” he added.