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Japan is trying its best to encourage fathers to take time off after their babies are born. The Lower House enacted a law last week giving fathers more flexibility when taking paternity leave. The government is even offering up to ¥500,000 to small companies that take steps to encourage such leave.

At Chiba city hall, over 90% of eligible workers have taken time off for child-rearing, following a change in mindset at the workplace. But the central government is way behind: A record 16.4% of eligible male civil servants took child care leave in fiscal 2019, with departmental rates varying wildly from 5% to 59%. The rate in businesses across Japan was a measly 7.48%.

Chiba's then-Mayor Toshihito Kumagai (center) makes a declaration in November 2015 at Chiba City Hall with others among government, industry and academia to foster management that will promote paternity leave. | KYODO
Chiba’s then-Mayor Toshihito Kumagai (center) makes a declaration in 2015 with figures from government, industry and academia to foster management that will promote paternity leave. | KYODO

And why might the government so obsessed with this idea? Well, one study found that couples are likelier to have more than one child when fathers are actively involved in child-rearing — and housework. Could this be the fix for Japan’s declining birth rate?

So break out your notebook, fathers — these super-dads have some advice. Sweden’s man in Tokyo tells Kyodo he learned a lot about himself by spending time with his kids at home, claiming that workers can better themselves from the experience. Footballer Yoshito Okubo is also using his platform to encourage father-child bonding, after the pandemic forced him to spend quality time with his four sons.

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