Japan Data

More Japanese Fathers Using Childcare Leave, Though Most Take Only a Few Days

Family Society

The number of Japanese men taking childcare leave is slowly growing. Although compared to women, who typically leave the workplace for long periods after having a child, the majority of fathers take only a few days off. Such pseudo-childcare leave gives fathers scant time to participate in caring for their child.

The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare’s Basic Survey of Gender Equality in Employment Management showed that in 2017 the ratio of men taking childcare leave increased 1.98 points to 5.14%, marking the first time it has risen over 5%.

The government has been promoting men’s participation in housework and childcare so that women can be more active in society. However, while the ratio of men taking childcare leave is on the rise, the increase is slow and the overall number is well below that for women. The government hopes to reach a ratio of 13% for men by 2020, but even hitting that target will only slightly narrow the margin between men and women.

The survey also showed there is considerable difference in the length of childcare leave men and women take. In 2015, a total of 85% of women took from six months to up to two years off after having a child. In contrast, more than 80% of men took less than one month, and of those 56.9% took less than five days. Such short periods of leave are often regarded as pseudo-childcare as the parent does not fully participate in caring for their child.

The recent phrase ikumen describes men who are enthusiastic about childcare, but figures show that such fathers are still very much in the minority. In Japan there remains a deeply rooted division of labor in which men work and women stay at home. In additions, there is strong resistance among men to stay away from the workplace for long periods of time. However, experts point out that it will be difficult for women to fully integrate into society if the burden of housework and childcare continues to fall on them.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)