National / Social Issues

Paternity leave still not widely embraced in Japan, survey shows

JIJI

With the number of male workers who take child care leave showing no notable growth, the government’s goal of raising the share of eligible men taking such leave to 13 percent in 2020 remains far out of reach.

According to a labor ministry survey for fiscal 2018, 6.16 percent of all eligible men took paternity leave, up 1.02 percentage points from the previous year for the sixth straight year of increase. But the figure remains far below the government target and the levels of more than 80 percent for women.

About 60 percent of women took child care leave of 10 or more months but less than 18, while the length of leave was less than two weeks for some 70 percent of men, with nearly 40 percent of men taking fewer than five days.

In an effort to remedy the situation, a task force of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has proposed increasing state subsidies for those who take paternity leave.

In an interim proposal put forward in March, the LDP task force said male workers have trouble applying for child care leave due to the culture of the company and workplace, as well as the personalized nature of work.

The panel underscored the need to implement policies for changing public perception of the issue and corporate culture.

Specifically, it proposed designating the postpartum four weeks as a leave period for fathers to support their wives, during which government subsidies for men who take child care leave would be raised to 100 percent of the wages they earned before the leave, up from an effective 80 percent at present.

The LDP panel hopes that the proposal will be reflected in the government’s fiscal and economic policy guidelines, officials said.

In the private sector, a growing number of businesses are encouraging employees to take paternity leave as part of work style reform.

At U-media Co., an advertising and printing company based in Sendai, all of those eligible have taken paternity leave.

Working efficiently for limited periods has changed the mindset of employees, bringing about a fall in overtime work and an improvement in work-life balance, company officials said.

Still, the longest paternity leave taken by nine workers at the company between 2015 and 2019 was only nine days. One employee said there was a culture that made him feel it was difficult to apply for leave.

Ayako Konno, director of the company, said the key will be “how we can change the strong public mood of intolerance toward paternity leave.”

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