Strive to create society in which men, women raise children together

The Child-rearing and Nursing Care Leave Law was revised in the recent ordinary Diet session to make it easier for men to take childcare leave. A society must be created in which both men and women are involved in raising children.

The rate of men taking childcare leave was still less than 8% in fiscal 2019. This is a far cry from the government’s goal of 30% by 2025, and there is a clear gap between men and women, with more than 80% of women taking childcare leave.

The situation in which the burden of child-rearing and housework is disproportionately borne by women is a major factor that discourages women from giving birth and leads to a society with fewer children. It also hinders women from continuing to work.

One of the pillars of the revised law is to improve the workplace environment. The revised law obliges companies to explain the details of the childcare leave system to employees when they have a child, and to confirm whether they intend to take such leave.

Companies need to actively encourage their employees to take advantage of the system so that more male employees will be involved in child-rearing.

Another pillar of the revisions is the creation of a new system that allows men to take up to four weeks of leave within eight weeks of the birth of their child.

Before the revision, child-rearing leave was in principle to be taken once before the child turned 1 year old. The introduction of the new system is said to make it easier to split the leave taken between the immediate postnatal period and again at a later time.

The revision is intended to allow men to be involved in such tasks as changing diapers, taking care of elder siblings and doing housework at a time when women are under a heavy physical and mental burden.

Childcare leave at the time of birth can now be taken by applying to the company at least two weeks in advance, shortening the previous requirement of one month’s notice.

Furthermore, employees will be able to work during the leave period to a certain extent, depending on their particular circumstances. The maximum number of days the employee can work will be set by a government ordinance.

It is important to take advantage of the new system and improve the atmosphere in the workplace.

According to a survey by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, one in four men who tried to utilize child-rearing leave or other support programs in the past five years said they had experienced such treatment as harassment at work or low performance evaluations.

However, some companies have been encouraging the use of child-rearing leave.

Sekisui House, Ltd. has set a goal that all male employees with children under the age of 3 should take at least one month of childcare leave. Employees’ superiors interview male staff and ask them when they would like to take the leave, so that careful arrangements can be made to have coworkers cover their duties to ensure that workflow will not be disturbed in their absence.

For small and medium-sized companies with a shortage of manpower, support such as advice from labor management experts may be necessary. Companies need to make efforts to review their staffing and operations on the premise that more men will take childcare leave.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on June 20, 2021.