Now we have all heard of maternity leaves that most women who undergo labour take from their workplaces to stay with the child for at least three months or more.
But in Japan, Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi has been making the headlines as he becomes the first cabinet member to take a paternal leave after he announced the birth of his first child on Friday, 17th January.
The NewYork Times
The son of Junichiro Koizumi, Japan’s popular former Prime Minister, is the first of his kind to take such a step and hopes to follow the footsteps of his father. The 38-year-old minister’s marriage to a famous French-Japanese television personality, Christel Tagikawa hit the headlines in the breaking entertainment news in summer 2019, and it was announced that they were pregnant with a child. Soon after, Shinjiro Koizumi, who is popularly known by his first name due to his father, was appointed as the Environment Minister of Japan.
On Friday, he talked to the news after coming to the office, announcing the birth of his son and stated that he had come straight from the hospital. “As a father, I’m really happy that a healthy boy was safely born.
Both of them are doing well, that’s the most important thing. What a relief.” Along with this, he notified the reporters of the leaves, saying that he plans to take two weeks off as paternity leave, but due to responsibilities at the office, the leaves would be stretched over a period of 3 months. His decision attracted praise on social media as he was applauded for reinstating the need for fathers to spend time with their wives and children during the initial stages. “I hope my taking paternity leave will lead the way of working styles to one where everyone can easily take child-care leave without hesitation in the environment ministry”.
Source: Al Jazeera
But critics categorised his action as a “publicity stunt” and said that it is a failed attempt to gain popularity in the entertainment news of the country. The question, however, is that, even if he did it to gain favour within the voting community, is the decision wrong? Let’s look at some stats.
Japan has some of the most generous policies in the world regarding parental leaves, but in 2018, only 6% of dads applied for those. Despite having the convenience of calling off work for 12 months on partially paid leaves, the practice is not common. In fact, among 6% that utilised this facility, most of them requested for a paternal leave of a week or less.
This reflects on the conditions surrounding the working fathers because employers are not flexible and often replace the workers that request some time off to look after their child. Critics also argued that since Shinjiro has just moved into the office, he should not go on leaves and dedicate his time to the public office by bringing much-needed changes in the environment department.
Source: Business Insider
According to government reports, the working hours for the environment ministry is 7 hours and 45 minutes daily so by requesting two weeks off, Shinjiro would be absent for a total of 110 hours from the office. When you think about the 12 months that have been allocated to fathers in Japan, this figure seems quite less, and Shinjiro is motivated to bring a change in the work dynamics for parents, especially by introducing his policy of “Womenemonics” to improve the conditions of employment for them.
He said, “I’ll keep a priority on policy and on managing anything unexpected that comes up, while also carving out time for childcare”. So he is saying that he would keep an eye on his office while taking some time off to spend with his wife and child.
Georgia Richard, a Twitter user, said, “Every father should have time dedicated to loving and caring for their child”, and this is the summary of how social media has been reacting to his decision. Paternity leave for men around the world should be normalised, and therefore, a significant figure like Shinjuro taking such a step might hopefully make jobs convenient for parents around the world. As a son of a popular PM, Shinjiro was already seen as a potential leader for Japan, and so far his decisions have attracted positive public attention.