Date
21 August 2017
Kensuke Miyazaki and wife Megumi Kaneko have drawn criticisms after Miyazaki decided to take a paternity leave. Photo: BBC
Kensuke Miyazaki and wife Megumi Kaneko have drawn criticisms after Miyazaki decided to take a paternity leave. Photo: BBC

Good dad? Bad dad? Paternal leave sparks debate in Japan

A Japanese lawmaker is taking paternity leave for the first time in the country’s history.

It’s a brave move by 34-year-old Kensuke Miyazaki, who said he wants to do something about Japan’s aging population, BBC News reports.

He knows that many of his constituents, and even some of his supporters, are not thrilled by his decision. It may even derail his career as a politician.

Most fathers do not take paternity leave in Japan because they believe child-rearing is the responsibility of mothers.

Only 2.3 percent of those eligible for paternity leave took it last year, but the government wants to raise it to 13 percent by 2020.

Mayazaki believes he has to set the example.

“What I am fighting against is not the opposition parties. I am fighting the declining number of children because studies show that the birth rate goes up when fathers are more involved in raising children,” Mayazaki told the BBC.

But many do not look kindly at his decision.

Said one critic: “Paternity leave is for workers. Lawmakers are not workers. They were elected by voters so they should serve the people. If they want to go on paternity leave, they should resign.”

A lawmaker from the Democratic Party of Japan criticized both Miyazaki and his wife, fellow Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Megumi Kaneko, in a tweet: “As members of Parliament, their job is not to go on paternity leave graciously with full-pay but to change the law so that ordinary citizens are protected.”

In Japan, employed fathers are entitled to 52 weeks of paid leave, earning nearly 60 percent of their salary.

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