Harassment for acting like a dad

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.

  • SR400

    It’s not workplaces that’s the problem – You said it there yourself – It’s “not receive the understanding of coworkers or superiors” i.e. people, and by extension Japanese society.
    Nothing will change until Japanese society changes, and at the glacial pace that that happens here, don’t expect it anytime in our lifetime.
    Another underlying problem here is that of perpetuity – Every Japanese worker complains of things like this, and excessive overtime, but once in a supervisory, or even senior management position, where they could implement positive changes, the same back-breaking, soul-crushing practices are left to continue. It’s almost as though the Japanese revel in the sadism of it all.

  • I am glad to see this editorial, and the Japan Times deserves credit for publishing it, giving some time to men’s problems.

    Even so, what I would prefer is if we lived in a culture that didn’t gender-fy these topics to begin with.

    The normal cultural status quo way of evaluating the issues of “maternity/paternity leave” is going be be through 1 of 2 lenses, or both:

    1. “Employer vs Employee/Family”
    2. “Man vs Woman”.

    To be finally resolved, I think both of those views need to be dispensed with, and the causative conflict needs to be addressed, which is: “Individuals vs Duty Ethic”.

    Even if everyone’s rights are protected, that does little to deal with the social shaming involved, including self-shaming for what one improperly views to be their “obligations”.

    We should not be pursuing the narrow solution to one problem, we should be challenging the outlook that creates these problems to begin with. In that way, we would no longer have to deal with each new case as it arises, it would simply fail to arise at all when operating under the appropriate premises.