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Japan enacts law for flexible paternity leave soon after childbirth

The House of Representatives passes a bill to revise the law on childcare leave on June 3, 2021, enabling fathers to take paternity leave more flexibly. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's parliament enacted a law Thursday enabling fathers to take paternity leave more flexibly soon after childbirth as the country aims to raise its chronically low rate of men taking such leave.

    The House of Representatives passed a bill to revise the law on childcare leave to create a special scheme allowing fathers to take a total of four weeks off within eight weeks of childbirth and, if they want, divide the period into two. The House of Councillors earlier approved the bill.

    The scheme, expected to be launched in October next year, will also allow fathers to give shorter prior notice of their intention to take the leave to their employers -- from four weeks to two weeks.

    Up to 80 percent of their salary will be guaranteed through the child care leave benefits and exemption from social security premiums.

    Many fathers wish to take childcare leave right after their wives give birth, the time when mothers tend to suffer from postnatal depression, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

    In fiscal 2019, only 7.48 percent of men working in the private sector took childcare leave, while 83.0 percent of women did so, it said. The government is now aiming to lift the ratio for men to 30 percent in 2025.

    Welfare experts say Japan leads the world in paid-leave provisions for fathers. But the nation's male-centered corporate culture, which favors those who put work before family, is blamed as a deterrent factor.

    The revised law will also oblige companies to inform employees of childcare leave systems and confirm their intention to use them, starting in April next year.

    Companies with more than 1,000 employees will be required to announce the status of employees taking childcare leave from April 2023.

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