National

Japan to raise subsidies for firms where dads take paternity leave, sources say

Kyodo

To boost the number of employees taking paternity leave and promote female participation in the workforce, the labor ministry has decided to increase government subsidies for companies whose employees do so, sources close to the matter said Thursday.

The rate of men who take leave for child care is only around 6 percent despite six consecutive years of increase, far from the government’s goal of 13 percent by 2020.

Under the current system, companies receive subsidies if they undertake steps to facilitate paternity leave, such as by holding management seminars or getting bosses to encourage subordinates to take leave.

So far, small and midsize companies receive between ¥570,000 and ¥720,000 for the first period of paternity leave taken by an employee. The sum ranges from ¥285,000 to ¥360,000 in the case of large companies. More subsidies are given if more take paternity leave, based on the number of days taken.

The labor ministry aims to add around ¥100,000 to those subsidies for every male employee at small and midsize companies who takes leave if companies take more initiative, the sources said. The details are still being studied, but large companies will receive half of the sum to be given to small and midsize companies, they said.

Japan ranked first among 41 countries in a UNICEF report in June on paternity leave based on legal entitlements.

The report also noted, however, that the number of men who took advantage of the system in Japan was very low, citing reasons that included businesses being short-handed and a corporate culture that made it difficult for employees to request paternity leave.

According to an August poll by Kyodo News of 112 major companies, slightly more than half said the rate for men who take paternity leave was less than 10 percent, while 19 percent said the rate was 50 percent or higher.

Personal stories about corporate retaliation for taking paternity leave have appeared on social media, including job relocation that often forces men to live away from their families.

A labor union based in Tokyo says calls by employees asking for advice on company retaliation include tales of job rotations and markedly lower personnel reviews after returning from paternity leave.

Keiko Ishikawa, a public relations consultant and expert on corporate crisis management, cautions companies that potential employees place importance on easy access to child care leave.

Companies need to recognize that difficulty in getting leave may affect their corporate values and hinder their long-term growth, she said.