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Editorial: Japanese companies should make efforts to boost paternity leave uptake

A revision to Japan's act on child care leave that encourages fathers to take paternity leave has been enacted by the Diet. Under the changes, they can take up to four weeks off following their child's birth -- the time can also be split into segments. We hope this will provide more men with opportunities to be actively involved in child rearing.

    In fiscal 2019, just 7.48% of eligible men took child care leave, far behind the 83% of women who did. Their leave was also short, with close to 40% taking "five days or less" off work in fiscal 2018. It is clear that in Japan the burden of raising children is skewed toward women.

    Many men say the atmosphere at work makes it difficult to take child care leave. On top of concerns that taking time off could disrupt the work flow, there is a stereotypical view that child rearing is a role for women.

    An October 2020 Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare survey found that one in four men who tried to use paternity leave and other systems were subject to harassment in the workplace, and over 40% of them gave up on getting the leave.

    Quite a few men cannot take child care leave even though they want to, and some are concerned that taking paternity leave may affect their chances of a promotion or raise.

    The revised law requires companies to confirm whether employees want to take child care leave. It clearly indicates that promotion of child care leave is the company's responsibility. Furthermore, companies with over 1,000 employees are required to announce the status of employees' childcare leave acquisition.

    Companies must quickly strive to build workplaces where it is easy for workers to take leave.

    Some firms have put effort into having male employees take paternity leave. Company executives and those in charge of personnel affairs have actively approached employees eligible for leave and their superiors to make it happen.

    Some companies even take employees' acquisition of child care leave into consideration when evaluating the bosses' performance, and create mechanisms to ensure a smooth handover of work when an employee goes on leave. It has reportedly boosted these companies' images, resulting in more job applications and fewer people leaving.

    With work now being reviewed to respond to employees' taking of child care leave, streamlining has progressed, and workplace communication has become active. These initiatives could probably serve as advanced examples for many firms.

    Child rearing continues even after child care leave is over. Companies need to accept diverse working styles and rectify long working hours so that men can continue to be involved in raising their children.

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