Sat, Jan 18, 2020 - Page 6 News List

Japanese minister takes leave following son’s birth

AP, TOKYO

Japanese Minister of the Environment Shinjiro Koizumi has become father to a boy and is going ahead with his planned paternity leave — still a rarity in Japan, where men are under pressure to put work before family.

Koizumi yesterday said that his wife, former newscaster Christel Takigawa, gave birth to their first child late on Thursday, just two days after he announced that he was taking two weeks off over the next three months.

“It has already started,” he said, adding that he had left his office early on Thursday so he could be present during his wife’s delivery.

Koizumi is the first Japanese Cabinet minister to take paternity leave, hoping to get more working fathers to follow his example.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has adopted a policy to free up time for mothers and get more of them back into Japan’s shrinking workforce in the fast-aging nation.

Japan has relatively generous parental leave policies, allowing men and women partially paid leave of up to a year.

While recent surveys have shown that a majority of eligible male employees hope to take paternity leave, changes are coming slowly and few fathers of newborns take time off due to intense pressure to focus on work.

Only 6 percent of eligible working fathers took paternity leave in 2018, Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare data showed, far short of the government’s modest 13 percent target for this year.

Koizumi’s announcement has received mixed reaction.

Some people said that two weeks of paternity leave is marginal and that he might be only trying to get attention, while others welcomed his decision as the beginning of change.

“I understand that opinions are still divided,” Koizumi said. “I will set aside time [for my family] while making sure to prioritize my public duty and be fully prepared for any emergency.”

Koizumi, the son of maverick former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, said that he was “delighted and also relieved” that his wife and the baby, who is not yet named, are in good health.

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