Can men really take paternity leave?
Woe unto the man who openly considers taking paternity leave, said the Asahi Shimbun. Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi received an avalanche of criticism last week after he announced he might take some time off to help his wife when their first child is born next year. The 38-year-old son of a former prime minister, Koizumi is a rising star in the center-right Liberal Democratic Party. But his socially liberal views—he favors letting married women keep their maiden names and thinks fathers should be more involved in day-to-day parenting—is causing a backlash. His detractors, who include former cabinet ministers, say that Koizumi’s government duties will require his presence, and that “working for the country should be his top priority.” Koizumi shot back that his critics were being “old-fashioned” and “pigheaded.” Under Japanese law, new dads are entitled to up to a year of paid leave to care for kids. But while 86 percent of Japanese men want to take paternity leave, only 6 percent of eligible fathers actually did so last year. Many who didn’t cited workplace attitudes that discouraged time off. Still, that mindset may be evolving, thanks partly to a new generation of politicians like Koizumi. The “seeds of change have been planted.”