National

Fathers at many Japanese firms take less than month of paternity leave

Kyodo

The average period of paternity leave taken by new fathers is shorter than the period widely viewed as necessary to support postpartum mothers at more than half of large Japanese firms, a Kyodo News survey has shown.

In a survey of 110 big companies, 64 of which gave responses, about half said their male employees taking leave for child care were away for less than a month, the minimum period during which obstetrics and gynecology specialists say mothers need intensive support after giving birth.

As the main obstacles in promoting paternity leave, the respondents cited a lack of motivation from employees to take such leave, difficulty in finding replacement staff and a lack of recognition of the necessity among managers. The possibility of a fall in income during the leave were also raised as a major concern.

The poll, conducted in January and February, found that average paternity leave periods were less than a week at 13 companies.

Government data showed that 6.16 percent of male employees took child care leave in fiscal 2018, compared with 82.2 percent of female employees. That figure was well below the 13 percent and 30 percent the government is aiming for in the public and private sector by 2020 and by 2025, respectively.

“Women bear an extremely heavy burden of child care in Japan. The declining birth rate won’t be curbed unless this is solved,” said a lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The average fertility rate in 2018 fell 0.01 from the year before to 1.42, clouding prospects for achieving a target of 1.8 by March 2026.

The government is considering measures to encourage more paternity leave, such as employment insurance making up for 80 percent of lost salary during the leave — up from the current 67 percent.

In January, Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi made the rare move for a Cabinet minister of saying he would take paternity leave after the birth of his first child, in the hope of encouraging more officials at the ministry to follow suit.

Four out of 79 companies that responded to a question about paternity leave in the past year said that all eligible male employees took it.

Some of the companies say they have urged managers to allow male employees to take leave for child care whenever needed, while others say they have made the use of such leave a key company policy.

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