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Japan gov't to implement steps so more male workers can take paternity leave

A father walks his daughter to day care in Tokyo's Suginami Ward. (Mainichi/Yohei Koide)

TOKYO -- The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is set to develop legislation to promote more male workers in Japan to take child care leave, it has been learned.

Specifically, the ministry will consider obliging companies to notify their employees about their right to take paternity leave, as well as raising the amount of child care benefits paid to workers on leave.

The ministry intends to submit a bill to revise the act on child care and caregiver leave to the ordinary session of the Diet as early as in 2021.

Acquisition of child care leave among male workers in Japan has been sluggish, with the ratio standing at a mere 6% as of October 2018, while the figure for women is 82%. While the government is seeking to raise the ratio for men to 13% by 2020, the target is apparently difficult to achieve under current circumstances.

The period of child care leave taken by employees also differs greatly between men and women. While 90% of working mothers take child care leave for at least six months, 60% of their male counterparts take less than five days. In a bid to improve the status quo, a lawmakers' group was launched within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to call for the establishment of a new scheme.

In response, the health ministry will discuss measures to promote male workers to take paternity leave in conjunction with a review of the child care and caregiver leave law that is conducted once every three years.

Proposals raised within the government and the ruling parties include: requiring companies to promote male workers whose wives are expected to give birth soon to take paternity leave; and raising child care benefits -- currently set at a maximum of 67% of one's salary -- to somewhere around 80% for limited periods such as during the month after delivery.

Within the LDP legislators' group, some members had initially called for requiring male workers to take child care leave. However, the proposal was quashed after many raised objections to the effect that it was unfair to oblige only men to take such leave while women are not mandated to do so.

The health ministry is also set to review controls over the management of employment insurance, which serves as a revenue source of child care benefits.

The employment insurance system is funded by premiums paid by both employees and employers, as well as state subsidies. While the system originally centered on the payment of unemployment benefits for certain periods to those out of work, the amount of child care benefits paid now surpasses that of unemployment benefits.

While the system is currently managed in an integrated manner, the ministry intends to separate child care benefits and unemployment benefits starting April 2020 with the aim of balancing both coffers.

(Japanese original by Ryosuke Abe, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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