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'Kids Week' family holiday proposal met with widespread criticism

Panasonic Wild Knights rugby players toss balls into the air for children to catch, at an event in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, on May 28, 2017. (Mainichi)

The recent revelation that the government is thinking of introducing a holiday period called "Kids Week" -- designed to let families spend more time together -- has been met with widespread criticism. But why is the notion of "Kids Week" proving to be unpopular?

    On May 24, at the prime minister's office in Tokyo, the government's Education Rebuilding Council set out plans to introduce the "Kids Week" initiative sometime during fiscal 2018. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his support for the idea, commenting that, "It is important for parents and children to set aside time together, in order to enhance the level of education within one's home, and also in each region. The government will push ahead on this new 'rest reform' initiative together with the private sector."

    Under the Kids Week initiative, it is envisioned that a lengthy public school holiday period will be made five days shorter, and that in exchange, those five days will be carried over to a different month in order to create a nine-day holiday.

    However, the idea has not been met with much support. On May 26, two days after the proposal came to light, a 42-year-old father, with two children at elementary school, laughed off the idea of a nine-day holiday, saying, "Which country are we talking about here?"

    With May 26 also being the last Friday of the month, and therefore a recently introduced "Premium Friday," the man was asked about his plans for the day on which workers are encouraged to go home early. "Is it today?" he replied. "It was not on my mind at all. I'd like to go home earlier than usual, but I have work to do."

    There have been some positive responses to the Kids Week idea, though. For example, companies in the travel industry stand to benefit financially from the initiative. However, overall, the general public appears to be skeptical about the concept.

    A 36-year-old Tokyo-based woman who works in the retail industry was particularly critical. "Holiday periods are particularly busy for us, so it's inevitable that some people will be displeased if only people with children take holidays. The real problem is that it is very difficult to take time off. I wish the government wouldn't use children as an 'excuse' in this way."

    A 29-year-old single woman who works in Tokyo said, "If colleagues with children take time off, then there will inevitably be some strain on those workers without children. I really want to say 'you're joking, right?' to this idea of only letting people with children take nine days off."

    Furthermore, after the Mainichi Shimbun recently posted an article about this planned initiative on Facebook, there were about 50 comments in response, but not one of them was in favor of the idea. Also, in a questionnaire conducted by online giant Yahoo Inc., about 66 percent of the 170,000 respondents were against the Kids Week scheme, and only 22 percent were in favor, as of May 29.

    Professor Touko Shirakawa, of Sagami Women's University, says, "This all feels somewhat abrupt. The idea of a work-life balance should be applied to people who don't have children as well. Raising a child should not be seen as a sanctuary (in government plans)."

    Yoshie Komuro, who is head of consulting company Work Life Balance Co., Ltd. says, "Paid holiday leave is something that should be available to all employees. This latest idea of increasing holiday time only for people with children is unfair," adding that the government should have come up with creative ways to announce the plan.

    On the other hand, Yasuko Matoba of Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute Inc., is more positive. "By introducing a Kids Week, it will be easier for employees to ask for holiday time. I think it would be good if everybody would be able to take time off, as needed."

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