With an aim to become a role model for the country's working fathers, Japanese Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi will soon announce his plans to take paternity leave.
Public broadcaster NHK has reported that Koizumi would only take about 2 weeks of leave over 3 months. Reportedly, some of the lawmakers had initially criticized his interest in taking parental leave, saying he should prioritize his duty to the public as a cabinet minister.
However, it is aligned with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's endeavor to encourage more men to take paternity leave as part of his "Womenomics" program of bolstering women's employment. While the change has been slow so far, the move by the country's Environment Minister might inspire others and help the country promote a new cultural change.
Japan, as a country has been ahead of the curve, with its progressive parental leave policies. The country providers men and women with partially paid leave of up to a year, or longer if there is no public child care. Policies are further more accommodating for government workers.
However, the progressive policies have not been enough to create changes in the thought processes of the population. As per the government data, the rate of men taking child care leave in Japan stood at 6.16 percent in fiscal 2018, far less than the 82.2 percent of women. To drive a huge cultural change, creating role models or setting examples is often required.
As one of the prime leaders and influencers of the country, Koizumi could surely inspire other men to step up and avail paternity leaves. But in addition to that more initiatives are required at company level as well to propel this cultural change. Introducing parental leaves is not enough, working men have to be encouraged to take it up as well. It is extremely crucial to help them understand the importance of the impact their small step can create. Only then will Japan be able to raise the rate of men taking child care leave to 13 percent in the public and private sectors this year.