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Paid Child-Care Leave Gaining Ground in Japan (January 9, 2007)

A father takes care of his baby (PANA)
Getting dads involved in the day-to-day care of their children is becoming a hot topic of discussion in Japan, which is searching for ways to address its low birthrate. A growing number of companies are introducing paid child-care leave systems in the aim of getting their male employees to play a more active role at home.

Sharing the Burden
Child-care leave is granted to male and female workers with children up to the age of one in accordance with the Law Concerning the Welfare of Workers Who Take Care of Children or Other Family Members Including Child Care and Family Care Leave. It is separate from maternity leave. In principle both men and women can take advantage of the system, but in practice fewer than 1% of all men do, as opposed to more than 70% of women.

The burden for raising children tends to fall squarely on the shoulders of women. Almost 70% of women reportedly quit their jobs when they have a child, and those who continue working often find a new employer or job that does not interfere with their obligations at home.

The fact that women must make major life changes when they assume the heavy responsibilities of childrearing is believed to be one factor behind the falling birthrate. It is also thought that getting men to take on a fair share of the parenting burden may be a key to reversing the trend. Increasing the use of child-care leave by men is viewed as the first step in this direction.

A symbol conferred by the government on companies that promote a balance between work and child care (Jiji / Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare)

Making Child-Care Leave Affordable
Financial considerations are one major reason why so few men take child-care leave. Employees who take child-care leave receive only a subsidy equivalent to about 40% of their regular wages through their employment insurance. Since most fathers are the main breadwinners in their families, this makes it difficult for them to take child-care leave.

Aiming to eliminate financial insecurity as a factor in their decisions, a number of companies, including Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd., Lion Corporation, and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, have introduced systems that enable parents to continue receiving their wages during child-care leave. Their goal is to increase the number of men taking time off.

In 2007 the government will introduce a system to recognize companies with a satisfactory child-care support program, and the extent to which male employees take child-care leave will constitute one of the items evaluated. The system is providing a further boost for paid child-care leave, since firms believe recognition will enhance their reputation and help them attract talented recruits.

A number of other reasons have been suggested for why more men do not take off from work, including a reluctance to inconvenience their coworkers, a lack of cooperation from managers, and delayed promotions. The government has set a goal of raising the number of workers taking child-care leave to 80% of women and 10% of men, and increased opportunities for fathers to take leave will be a key plank of this effort.

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Copyright (c) 2007 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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