Child care clashes with hard working culture . . .
Japanese Environment Minister Shinjirō Koizumi announced that he will take paternity leave for the birth of his first child, with the hope of promoting this practice. While the news was well received in the Western media, it was negatively received in Japan, where work usually takes precedence over personal life. It has been reported that only six per cent of Japanese fathers take paternity leave, and Koizumi is the first top minister to do so. Following the harsh criticism, Koizumi announced he will only take two weeks off in the form of shortened days and remote work.
Limited success of 'Womenomics' . . .
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe put gender equity and child care at a top priority when he was elected in 2012, recognizing the importance of women’s full-participation in the economy. However, the success of his “womenomics” plan has so far been limited. While women labour participation increased and child-care services and facilities have improved, child care is still a major burden for women. In fact, the increased work participation of women, combined with a work culture that limits both men and women from taking parental leave, has added further pressure on women, who are seen as primary household caretakers. As a result, Japan’s fertility rates have plunged.
Slow progress . . .
In addition to Abe’s “womenomics” plan, the government adopted a new Work Style Reform Bill in 2018 to address the notoriously demanding work culture in Japan, which remains at the root of the problem. Progress, however, is expected to be slow as it requires wide structural and cultural changes. Even in Canada, paternity leave has not taken root either – with only 31 per cent of eligible fathers participating nationwide.
- New York Times: In Japan, Paternity Leave a Big Deal
- The Globe and Mail: ‘Womenomics’ opens doors for Japan’s female workers, but at great cost to their personal lives
- The Guardian: Koizumi is first of Japan's top ministers to take paternity leave