The percentage of men taking child care leave in Japan rose to 13.97% last year, up 1.32 points from the year before and marking the highest ratio ever, according to the latest labor ministry survey. But it is still far short of the government’s goal of raising the ratio to 30% by 2025.

According to results of the annual survey on equal employment opportunities released on July 29, 85.1% of women who gave birth took child care leave, marking a 3.5 percentage point increase from the year before.

Women took much longer time off, with 80.2% of those who took child care leave doing so for 10 months or more. In contrast, 26.5% of men who took time off after their child was born took between 5 and 14 days off, followed by 25%, who took fewer than five days off.

Labor ministry officials said that, to further raise the ratio of employees taking paternity leave, nudging from small- and mid-size companies is key. In April, the government beefed up subsidies for smaller companies encouraging their male workers to take such leave.

In October, in line with legal revisions enacted in June, a special plan will be introduced to allow fathers to take up to four weeks within eight weeks of a child's birth. Also, fathers can divide the period into two.

In addition, fathers can give shorter prior notice to their employers of their intention to take the leave — two weeks, down from four weeks. Up to 80% of their salary will be guaranteed through the child care leave plan.

Data for the survey was taken on Oct. 1, 2021. A total of 3,683 businesses with five employees or more participated in the poll.