Japanese minister first to take paternity leave

One of Japan's top ministers is taking paternity leave. This is a first for the country, and a big deal.

The country’s environment minister is embarking on new territory

Shinjiro Koizumi is set to become the first cabinet minister in Japan to take paternity leave. The 38-year-old environment minister and his wife, Christel Takigawa, are expecting their first baby at the end of January. Even though he only plans to take a 2-week leave, his decision is groundbreaking in Japan, where only 6% of working fathers took time off after having a child in 2018, compared to 82% of mothers in line with Japanese government. Both men and women are entitled to up to 1 year off when their child is born, but the country’s work culture means most men don’t claim it, while women are expected to assume the responsibility of childcare alone.

There is no legal system for childcare leave for ministers

This is the case not only for ministers but also for politicians, there is no concept of working hours and no concept of overtime. On the condition that government affairs are given top priority and crisis management is thorough, people want the flexibly to take two weeks of childcare leave during the three months after delivery, when the mother's burden is heaviest, except during parliamentary sessions or cabinet meetings, when it doesn't interfere with work. Since childcare leave is not stipulated by law, the period and method are determined by person and the organization. It was viewed as an act of treason for a man to take paternity leave and the the thinking is gradually changing but this is an area where a change in the workplace in Japan is welcomed.

Paternity leave is the time a father takes off from work to help care for his newborn baby, adopted child, or foster child

In 2018, a Canadian broker living in Japan sued his employer, claiming he was bullied and later fired for taking his paternity leave. Koizumi, the son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, hopes his example will set a precedent to make it easier for Japanese men to take parental leave, without hurting their careers.