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The labor ministry is considering introducing a new leave program for men whose wives have just given birth, as many new fathers in the country remain reluctant to take leave under the current system.

On Tuesday, a subcommittee of the Labor Policy Council, which advises the labor minister, began discussing the new program’s introduction, with the aim of promoting men’s involvement in child-rearing and encouraging women to continue working.

Following the subcommittee’s discussions, the government plans to submit to next year’s ordinary session of the Diet a bill to amend related laws to introduce the proposed paternity leave system.

Under the labor standards law, women are given maternity leave of six weeks prior to childbirth and eight weeks after their babies are born. In addition, parents, regardless of gender, can take child care leave until their children reach the age of one in principle, based on the child care and family care leave law.

Men, however, have tended to be reluctant to take child care leave, due to uncertainties about their income and pressure from their workplace. Also behind the reluctance are aspects of the existing child care leave system that make it inconvenient, such as the need to apply for the leave at least a month in advance and a ban on breaking up the leave period into short blocs.

The subcommittee is mulling a new system to make it easier for men to take leave for child raising, placing a focus on the period immediately after childbirth.

Some members attending the subcommittee meeting the same day said that appropriate measures should be in place to pay due regard to the effects on men’s careers and incomes, while others said that discussions that take into consideration the situations of small companies are important.

According to the ministry’s Basic Survey of Gender Equality in Employment Management for fiscal 2019, only 7.48 percent of eligible men used child care leave, far less than the government’s goal of 13 percent by 2020.

The government aims to raise the figure to 30 percent by 2025. It included plans to encourage men to take leave immediately after their wives give birth in the basic economic and fiscal policy guidelines it adopted this summer.

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