The government formally decided Friday to encourage male civil service workers from April to take paternity leave for a minimum of one month.
Under the policy, the performance of managers will be evaluated partly on how easy they make it for subordinates to take paternity leave. Other measures will be introduced to make it easier for new fathers to make arrangements for their work to be done in their absence.
The policy also recommends workers take leave within eight weeks of childbirth in consideration of the physical burden on their partners. In principle, workers are able to take paternity leave up to a year from the birth of a child.
The practice of men taking extended child care leave is still not widespread in Japan, and only 6 percent of new fathers working in the private sector took such time off in fiscal 2018.
By urging national public servants to take long child care leave, the government hopes to promote a culture of acceptance of paternity leave in both the public and private sectors.
A survey conducted by the Cabinet Secretariat on male government staff under 50 between Nov. 25 and Dec. 19 found that 54.0 percent of the 22,000 respondents said they want to take child care leave. A further 28.6 percent said they wanted to take paternity leave but that they did not think they would be able to use the system.
Under the paternity leave system, up to a week of paid leave is provided, with employment insurance partly making up for lost salary in the period taken thereafter.
The actual ratio of male government staff who took it in 2018 stood at 12.4 percent among those who were eligible.
Of those who said that they think they cannot use the system or they do not wish to do so, 37.4 percent cited a drop in income as a reason, followed by 31.4 percent who mentioned their busy work schedules. In addition, 24.6 percent cited problems they expected to face in the workplace upon their return from taking paternity leave.
In June, ruling party lawmakers launched a group to explore ways to encourage male workers to take paternity leave.