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Japan minister takes paternity leave in rare move

Credit: Reuters - Politics
Published on January 21, 2020 - Duration: 02:00s

Japan minister takes paternity leave in rare move

Rising political star Shinjiro Koizumi will take two weeks off after the birth of his baby boy, paving the way for Japan's notorious workaholic fathers.

Olivia Chan reports.

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Japan minister takes paternity leave in rare move

A top Japanese politician has sparked controversy for taking paternity leave and he's only taking two weeks off.

Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi announced he'd step back on Friday (January 17) after birth of his baby boy.

These two weeks may seem standard in other developed countries but in Japan, it's big news.

Koizumi says he's setting an example for a nation notorious for its workaholic fathers.

(SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) JAPANESE ENVIRONMENT MINISTER, SHINJIRO KOIZUMI, SAYING: "About 80 percent (of men) want to take (paternity leave) but only 6 percent can.

I think some aspects of this situation cannot be solved by just changing the system.

I would like to create a stir over this and hope things move forward in a positive way." Koizumi's high profile may add some weight to his gesture.

He's the son of Junichiro Koizumi, one of the country's most popular modern prime ministers.

And the junior Koizumi is seen as a future leader himself.

Though Shinjiro's seen praise for blazing a trail for working dads, conservative lawmakers have criticized his plans.

They've even questioned his dedication to the job.

That reflects expectations in Japan, that men should give everything to their employers, even at the expense of family.

Koizumi insists he'll be fine.

(SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) JAPANESE ENVIRONMENT MINISTER, SHINJIRO KOIZUMI, SAYING: "I have been receiving various comments from the international community.

While I seriously listen to pros and cons, I would like to secure time for so-called paternity leave while keeping my duties at the highest priority and be well prepared for the cases of emergency." Given all that, it may be surprising that on paper - Japan's parental leave policies are among the world's most generous.

They allow men and women partially paid leave of up to a year.

It's been a priority for current leader Shinzo Abe, hoping for better work-life balance.

But change has been slow and Japan's intense work culture means a few new fathers step away from work.

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