Like-minded members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party plan to form a caucus to make the taking of paternity leave mandatory in Japan, informed sources said Saturday.
The caucus, to be chaired by former education minister Hirokazu Matsuno, is set to hold its first meeting as early as June 5, the sources said. The LDP members believe creating an environment friendly to those who wish to take paternity leave will eventually contribute to reviving the birthrate and allow more women to play active roles in society.
They plan to make policy proposals, with the aim of compiling legislation to oblige men to take paternity leave, according to the sources.
The group will devise measures by studying mandatory paternity leave systems adopted by private-sector companies and other countries, such as Finland, where such leave systems are used.
Possible measures include the introduction of a program to give parenting leave to male workers even without applications and the drafting of a law calling on companies to encourage workers to take paternity leave.
According to a fiscal 2017 survey by the Japan Productivity Center, a public interest incorporated foundation, about 80 percent of newly hired male workers in Japan said they wanted to take paternity leave.
But the ratio of men who took paternity leave in fiscal 2017 stood at only 5.14 percent, against 83.2 percent for women, according to labor ministry data. The figure for men falls far short of the 13 percent the government aims to realize by 2020.
Men tend to refrain from taking parenting leave out of concern about negative effects on work performance reviews, and due to a workplace atmosphere that makes it difficult for them to take such leave, sources familiar with the situation said.
“To change the current situation, it would be effective to make paternity leave practically mandatory,” an LDP member said.
The member added that a mandatory system is expected to help Japan not only deal with its low birthrate and promote women’s participation in the society, but also lower the divorce rate and improve corporate culture.