A new survey has added one more form of harassment to the long list Japanese workers suffer. According to a new survey released by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), Japan’s largest labor organization, more than one in every 10 working men have experienced “paternity harassment.” Those men have either been barred from taking childcare leave or been harassed for even applying. Apparently many companies do not support a healthy work-life balance and remain unsympathetic to workers who use their legal rights to be with their families.

In the poll, 11.6 percent of respondents with children said they experienced paternity harassment. Another 10.8 percent of respondents reported seeing colleagues suffer paternity harassment. Half of those harassed had their requests for a paternity leave completely rejected. A smaller percentage was told that taking paternity leave would damage their career. Apparently, in some companies, ignoring a newborn child and forgoing family obligations is considered a positive step along the career track.

Of those who did suffer such harassment, two-thirds gave up taking paternity leave without consulting anyone about their legal options or workplace rights. Only 6.6 percent consulted their personnel or legal sections while another 6.6 percent consulted their labor union.

Workers apparently feel they have no recourse when denied their legal rights or harassed. Even more surprising, only 69 percent of the respondents even know about the Child Care and Family Care Leave Law. Under the family care law, both mothers and fathers are allowed to take child-care leave until their child turns 18 months old.

Despite the law, only 2.6 percent of fathers with a baby took the leave. The government set a paltry goal of raising that percentage to 10 percent by 2017. The goal should be set much higher. It is hard to estimate how many more men never even bothered to apply. Working parents can receive up to ¥215,000 in compensation while on leave, this should be raised.

The main reason given by men for not taking time off for child-rearing was that they could not receive the understanding of coworkers or superiors. Firms must change the corporate culture that embraces this archaic view of fatherhood.

From the results of this survey, it seems many Japanese workplaces have an anti-child-rearing policy that keeps families apart due to work obligations and offers little to no support for male workers who want to help raise their children.

Workplaces should establish policies that allow fathers time off. The government should help inform all workers of their rights. Taking time off to share in the joy and hard work of taking care of a young child is an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Unfortunately too many companies want to discourage that experience. In so doing, they take away one of the major reasons many people work — to afford to create a family with which to share a life.

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