Devise ways to encourage companies to change their attitudes

Many men are still hesitant to take parental leave. It is important for society as a whole to create an environment that makes it easier for couples to raise children.

According to a survey by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the rate of men taking parental leave in fiscal 2021 was 13.97%. This is an increase of 1.32 percentage points from the previous fiscal year, but compared to that of women at 85.1%, the men’s figure was by far the lower.

Parental leave is a system that allows both spouses to take leave that can be extended until the child turns 2. Benefits are provided by employment insurance and social insurance premiums are exempted, so around 80% of a person’s income is covered even during the period of leave.

According to the survey results, the most common period of parental leave for men was “five days to less than two weeks,” followed by “less than five days.” For women, the most common response was “12 months to less than 18 months,” followed by “10 months to less than 12 months.”

It is obvious that there remains a deep-rooted view that childcare is a woman’s responsibility. Given the increasing number of double-income families, isn’t it quite natural for couples to share the housework and childcare? It is vital to reduce the burden of child-rearing that is placed disproportionately on women.

The government has set a target for the percentage of men taking parental leave to reach 30% in 2025. To increase the rate, it is essential to change corporate attitudes on the issue.

At Sakata Manufacturing Co., a maker of metal fittings for construction based in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, with about 150 employees, all 23 male employees with newborns have taken parental leave since 2018. The company said it has established a system in which multiple people cover for each other on a regular basis, on the assumption that men will take parental leave.

This is a good example of a company that has established a system that does not interfere with operations even if employees are absent for a certain period of time, allowing workers to take parental leave without hesitation. Such progressive efforts need to be expanded.

The government has provided subsidies to small and midsize businesses that have improved the rate of men taking parental leave. It has also set up a program in which experts can be consulted on workplace conditions. It needs to actively encourage companies to make use of these support measures.

In spring this year, the government made it a requirement for companies to explain the details of their parental leave systems to employees who are expecting children and to confirm whether they will take the leave. From April next year, companies with more than 1,000 employees will be required to disclose the percentage of employees taking parental leave.

In some cases, even though men take parental leave, they may not know what to do and simply have days off. In order to make effective use of the leave, it is important for couples to discuss what they should do and cooperate in raising their children.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 14, 2022)