Japan’s environment minister is taking a paternity leave, the first for a cabinet minister in the country where men rarely take time off to raise children.
The move has made waves across the country and the world, even when Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, a potential candidate for prime minister one day, said it would only take off two weeks in three months.
“Honestly, I had to think over and over again how I should take time off to raise children, or take a paternity leave, while fulfilling my public duty as an environment minister,” Koizumi told ministry officials and journalists on Wednesday. . “Unless we change the atmosphere, government employees probably won’t start taking paternity leave.”
The decision comes when Japan has pressed for men to take paternity leave and spend more time with their families. The government changed its rules last month by allowing public servants to now take more than one month of paternity leave. The governors in Hiroshima and Mie have said goodbye, but never before had a cabinet minister.
Across the country, Japan’s licensing policy is generous, and men and women are allowed to take off up to 12 months with a partial payment. However, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare says that only 6% of eligible men took paternity leave from work in 2018.
Koizumi, son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, said he would leave without affecting his parliamentary and cabinet duties.
Koizumi will have his first child later this month and said last year when he announced his marriage he would leave. Some have criticized the decision, saying they should focus on their public service duties.
“I hope there is a day when the paternity leave of legislators is no longer news,” he said.
“I support him with all my heart,” Tokyo politician Hironobu Narisawa told local media. CBS News “This will encourage other male employees.”
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In the United States, federal law allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new child, however, individual employers may grant a certain amount of paid leave. The United States is the only OECD country that does not offer paid vacations to new mothers, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service.
Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Ryan Miller of USA TODAY on Twitter @RyanW_Miller