Govt eyes law revision to boost uptake in childcare leave

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Participants talk about childcare at a seminar held by Oita prefectural government in October 2020 to support fathers.

The government is planning to revise a law that will allow local public servants to take up to four periods of childcare leave. The bill, which is likely to be passed in the current Diet session, is aimed at encouraging more male employees to take time off work to help care for their offspring.

Currently, local public servants are allowed two periods of childcare leave: once within the first eight weeks of a child being born, and once again before the child turns 3. Under the revised law, both men and women will be allowed four periods of childcare leave, achieved by splitting the two original leave periods.

According to a survey by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, 13.2% of male local public servants took childcare leave in fiscal 2020, far lower than 51.4% of male national public servants — excluding those in certain posts, such as Self-Defense Force officials. The fire-fighting division and police force registered particularly low figures, at 4.2% and 4.9%, respectively.

In recent years, there has been an uptick in the number of male local public servants taking childcare leave. However, while the rate for national public servants increased 36.9 points from 14.5% in fiscal 2016, the rate for local public servants increased by just 9.6 points.

According to the ministry, many male local public servants are hesitant to take childcare leave because they have parents who live nearby and can help with childcare, and they also worry about a decrease in income.

“By increasing the number of childcare leave periods, male workers will be able to alternate periods of leave with their partners when necessary and mitigate concerns regarding income,” a ministry official said.