Kishida Vows to Improve Parental Leave Benefits

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks about measures to tackle the falling birthrate at a press conference in Tokyo on Friday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kihida has announced plans to overhaul the parental leave system, including a measure that will enable parents on leave to receive the same amount as their standard take-home pay, among other initiatives to tackle the falling birthrate.

At a press conference on Friday, Kishida stressed that he wanted to change the mindset of the whole society. “The creation of a ‘children-first society’ will be a common goal in various policy measures,” the prime minister said.

Births in Japan fell below 800,000 in 2022. Regarding the statistic, Kishida said, “If the trend continues, our country’s economy and society will shrink, and it will become difficult to maintain the social security system and regional communities.”

He added, “The next six to seven years are our last chance to see if we can reverse the trend.”

To tackle the falling birthrate, Kishida said the government will aim to raise the percentage of fathers who take paternity leave to 50% by fiscal 2025 and 85% by fiscal 2030.

The government plans to increase benefits paid under the paternity leave system, which allows fathers to take up to four weeks off within eight weeks after the birth of a child.

Fathers on paternity leave can currently receive 67% of their pay. The government plans to raise that figure to about 80%, which would effectively equal the amount of standard take-home pay as new fathers are exempted from paying social insurance premiums while on parental leave.

Mothers who take parental leave after maternity leave also stand to receive an amount almost equal to that of their take-home pay for a certain period.

Kishida said parents who work shorter hours after childbirth would also benefit under the new measures.

A new support framework is also planned for non-regular workers, freelancers and self-employed people, who are currently not eligible for parental leave benefits.

Efforts to increase the wages of young people are also expected to be included in the measures.

In addition, the government plans to expand child-related allowances, reduce the cost of higher education, and urge companies to offer non-regular workers regular contracts, according to Kishida.

The prime minister said the government will work to change awareness in society to promote greater involvement of “companies, fathers, communities, senior citizens and single people” in child-rearing.

As part of such efforts, Kishida said “fast track” lines would be introduced at national museums and other national facilities to cut queueing times for families with children.

The government plans to compile a draft of its child policy measures by the end of March. It intends to present a framework that will double its spending on children in the future.