Paternity leave: In Japan, it’s four weeks, but men are too afraid to take it

Hong Kong

A baby driving on his father’s shoulders smiles as they stroll by means of a park lined with yellow autumn-touched leaves – that’s the typical picture of a Japanese “ikumen”.

The time period strings collectively the Japanese phrases ikuji, which means care for youngsters, and ikemen, referring to cool-looking males.

Japanese authorities have broadly promoted the time period prior to now decade to fight the nation’s notoriously lengthy working hours that haven’t solely disadvantaged workaholic fathers of household time and stay-home moms of careers, however have helped drive the start price to one of many lowest on the planet.

To grab the “final likelihood to reverse” the state of affairs, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida final week unveiled a raft of insurance policies, together with boosts to youngster assist and a pledge to carry the variety of male employees taking paternity go away from the present 14% to 50% by 2025, and 85% by 2030.

However some on the planet’s third-largest financial system – which has lengthy struggled with a falling fertility price and an getting old inhabitants – are skeptical the plan can actually transfer the needle.

Makoto Iwahashi, a member of POSSE, a labor union devoted to youthful employees, mentioned whereas the federal government’s plan was well-intentioned, many Japanese males had been just too scared to take paternity go away resulting from potential repercussions from their employers.

Japanese males are entitled to 4 weeks of versatile paternity go away, on as much as 80% of their wage, beneath a invoice handed by the Japanese parliament in 2021.

The Yokobori family: Miho, left, Kentaro, center, and Hirohito, right. Kentaro was born almost seven years ago, the first in 25 years in the area in Kamikawa village.

Japan’s rural communities are dying out. The issue is, so are its cities

However regardless of the regulation, males remained “afraid” that taking the go away could have a detrimental impact on their promotion prospects or that they could be reassigned to a distinct place with fewer obligations, Iwahashi mentioned.

Whereas it’s unlawful to discriminate towards employees who take maternity and paternity go away in Japan, Iwahashi mentioned employees on fixed-term contracts had been notably weak.

And anyway, “Just a little tweak on paternity go away received’t considerably change a declining start price,” he added.

Hisakazu Kato, an economics professor at Meiji College in Tokyo, mentioned whereas huge firms had turn into extra accepting of parental go away through the years, smaller corporations nonetheless had reservations.

“Small firms are afraid they are going to face (employee shortages) resulting from childcare go away, and this places stress on younger fathers who wish to take childcare go away in future,” he mentioned.

At a press convention final week, the prime minister acknowledged the issues and pledged to contemplate offering allowances for small and medium-sized enterprises, with particulars to be introduced in June at his yearly coverage blueprint.

He additionally unveiled a plan geared toward boosting the uptake of paternity go away by encouraging corporations to reveal their efficiency.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

In 2022, the variety of new births in Japan dipped under 800,000 for the primary time since information started in 1899, the most recent milestone in a pattern that the federal government sees as more and more alarming.

Final week, Kishida went so far as to warn that “the subsequent six to seven years would be the final likelihood to reverse the declining birthrate pattern”.

However Stuart Gietel-Basten, a professor of public coverage and social science at The Hong Kong College of Science and Expertise, cautioned {that a} low start price was typically an indication of entrenched cultural components that may possible be immune to insurance policies modifications. Such components may vary from work tradition to gender attitudes, he added.

“Growing paternity go away is an efficient coverage, little question. It can definitely present many males (and ladies) with a constructive final result. Nonetheless, except the prevailing cultural norms and attitudes change the affect at a macro degree may very well be restricted,” mentioned the scholar.

Riki Khorana, 26, who plans to tie the knot along with his girlfriend in June, mentioned the excessive value of dwelling was one in all his largest issues in beginning a household.

Working as an engineer at one in all Japan’s largest conglomerates on the coronary heart of Tokyo, the nation’s capital, he recognized himself as a comparatively excessive earner, but he mentioned he presently lives along with his dad and mom in Yokohama, Japan’s second largest metropolis south of Tokyo.

After getting married, he’ll transfer out of his dad or mum’s home however will nonetheless have to remain in Yokohama resulting from Tokyo’s excessive rents.

Tokyo is the ninth most costly metropolis for expatriates to reside in, in line with US consulting agency Mercer’s Value of Residing Survey.

Khorana mentioned he deliberate to have two kids, but when there have been more practical authorities insurance policies then he would take into account extra.

“For me, I really feel like I can’t afford greater than two kids,” he mentioned. “There are much less financially safe individuals who assume they can’t have a couple of youngster.”

The nation’s fertility price – the typical variety of kids born to ladies throughout their reproductive years – has fallen to 1.3, far under the two.1 required to keep up a secure inhabitants.

Over time, consultants have additionally pointed to a way of prevailing pessimism amongst younger individuals who, because of the pressures of labor and financial stagnation, have little confidence sooner or later.

Businessmen in front of a convenience store in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, on March 16, 2023.

Final week, the prime minister mentioned he deliberate market reforms that may push up wages and financial help for younger employees. He additionally pledged to introduce advantages that would assist freelance or self-employed employees and spoke of additional allowances for youngster assist, training and housing.

The economics professor Kato felt the brand new insurance policies had been unlikely to be sufficient to resolve the nation’s demographic issues.

However he noticed a silver lining in encouraging paternity go away.

“I feel this can be a good proposal because it not solely improves household insurance policies, but in addition gender equality,” he mentioned.

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Halo, Saya adalah penulis artikel dengan judul Paternity leave: In Japan, it’s four weeks, but men are too afraid to take it yang dipublish pada March 28, 2023 di website Enchantress Magazine

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