Newly appointed Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi’s remark that he may consider taking paternity leave to help raise his first child, who will be born early next year, has sparked a heated public debate. While some hope he can serve as an example that will encourage other men to follow suit, others say he won’t be able to fulfill his responsibility as a Cabinet minister if he does so. No matter how mixed public reactions are, it’s a great opportunity for Japan to think about this issue seriously.

While 82.2 percent of working mothers in Japan take child care leave, a mere 6.16 percent of working husbands follow suit, according to a fiscal 2018 survey by the welfare ministry. The government aims to raise the percentage of men who take child care leave to 13 percent by 2020 but remains far short of this goal.

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