The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is considering introducing a system to allocate time to fathers to help rear their newborn children alongside an extension to statutory child care leave.
The “papa quota” system being considered by the ministry, which is already in place in northern Europe and elsewhere, is designed to encourage fathers to take part in child-rearing. The ministry is preparing to increase the maximum period of child care leave from 18 months to two years and allocate some of that time to fathers.
The ministry will reach a conclusion on the issue this year in a committee of its Labour Policy Council, aiming to submit a bill to revise related legislation to the ordinary Diet session next year.
The papa quota system was introduced in Norway in 1993, and has since spread, mainly through northern Europe. Norway’s laws allow up to 59 weeks of paid child care leave, but there is a 10-week quota that the other parent must take or they will forfeit their rights. Most fathers use the leave, and by making it easier for women to give birth and raise their children, the birth rate has increased.
In Japan, 81.5 percent of women eligible for child care leave last fiscal year took it, but just 2.65 percent of men did so — though the figure is higher than those in previous years. Currently if both the father and mother of the child take child care leave, the one year period of leave can be extended by around two months — a measure aimed at encouraging fathers to take some time off for child-rearing. However, just 3 percent of eligible men and 1.9 percent of women made use of this extension.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare wants to introduce a papa quota system in tandem with an extension to the period of statutory child care leave designated under the law on child and family care leave. For example, if a mother takes 18 months of child care leave and wants to extend this, the ministry is considering allocating three months or half a year of leave to the father.
Tetsuya Ando, 54, representative director of the nonprofit organization Fathering Japan, has requested the introduction of such a system. “It would lead to reform in the way people work and also encourage women to be more active,” he says. “To encourage people to take leave, the government should present the system as a comprehensive package, such as increasing the amount of subsidies and calling on companies to take action,” he said.