01/09/2018, 12.35
JAPAN
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Tokyo encourages fathers to ask for parental leave

According to the latest figures, 8.2% of eligible male civil service staff have applied. The goal is to reach 13% by 2020. There are still reserves, especially in the private sector.

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - More and more men employed in public administration are choosing paternity leave, encouraged by government agencies and their high-ranking officials. In a context of combating the persistent decline of births, the goal is to empower the father to participate in raising children.

Under current legislation, workers have time to request parental leave until their child is one year old, subject to two years under certain conditions.

In the fiscal year 2016, which ended last March, 8.2% of eligible male workers chose parental leave: 2.7% more than the previous year. The government aims to reach 13% by 2020, both in the public and private sectors. "Most of all, men, myself included, have to change their thinking," said the Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, during an awards ceremony held on December 13, in which the merits of the companies committed to gender equality were recognized.

There are still many barriers to overcome in the work environment, such as the fear of damaging their career and their hopes for promotion.

At the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, senior officials - including the Minister of Labor - have directly urged their male staff to take their leave. The campaign started in 2015. In 2016, the then Minister of Labor Yasuhisa Shiozaki declared himself "iku-boss" (a boss that raises a child). The result of the campaign is that the number of male workers taking paternity leave has risen by 13.7 points, reaching 40.9%. The Ministry of Finance has the highest number of male staff to have asked for it among all the government agencies: 420 men, or 24.3%. Moreover, if they decide not to apply, the ministry obliges its managers to submit a report explaining their motivations. The national staff authority, for its part, promotes measures in favor of parental leave, including full payment of bonuses for workers who take up to a month's leave.

The figure remains daunting if we introduce the statistics of the private sector: the proportion of male workers falls below 3.2%. Now, the challenge for the government is to increase the percentage in both sectors.

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