• Kyodo

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Japan is planning to introduce a system of more flexible paternity leave that can be taken soon after childbirth to raise the persistently low rate of men taking such leave and lessen the burden on their partners, officials said Thursday.

The government is set to submit a bill to revise the law on child care leave to a parliament session convening in January. It would allow fathers to take a total of four weeks off within eight weeks of childbirth and give shorter prior notice of their absence to their employers.

Although Japan leads the world in paid-leave provisions for fathers, according to U.N. Children’s Fund data, only 7.48% took child care leave in fiscal 2019. Japan’s male-centered corporate culture, which favors those who put work before family, is blamed as a deterrent factor.

The government, which has been struggling with the country’s declining birth rate, aims to increase the overall ratio of men taking paternity leave to 30% by 2025. It is considering making it mandatory for employers to encourage all employees to take the leave.

Measures to improve the current child care leave system were stipulated in a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry report, approved by its advisory panel on Thursday.

Promoting paternity leave right after childbirth is expected to reduce the number of mothers suffering from postnatal depression.

Specifically, male workers will be allowed to take two spells of leave, each up to two weeks, within the eight weeks, and their employment insurance will cover part of their salary.

While the current paternity leave system requires men to apply for the break a month in advance in principle, the new measure will allow them to apply just two weeks before.

The ministry is also considering requiring large businesses to release the rate of employees taking child care leave and relaxing conditions for fixed-term contract workers to take such days off.

Firms will be required to encourage child care leave to both male and female workers by explaining the systems based on the government and individual company policies through pamphlets and in-person meetings.

The ministry is also considering requiring companies to create an environment where employees can easily take such leave by providing consultation services and organizing seminars to raise awareness.

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