TOKYO -- Japanese environment minister Shinjiro Koizumi will soon announce he is taking paternity leave, a government official said on Wednesday, as he aims to become a role model for the country’s working fathers.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been trying to encourage more men to take paternity leave as part of his “Womenomics” program of bolstering women’s employment. But change has been slow.
Some other lawmakers initially criticized Koizumi’s interest in taking parental leave, saying he should prioritize his duty to the public as a cabinet minister.
Koizumi, son of charismatic former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi and often seen as a future leader himself, is expected to make an announcement shortly, an environment ministry spokesman said.
Public broadcaster NHK reported that Koizumi would only take about 2 weeks of leave over 3 months.
Japan’s parental leave policies are among the world’s most generous, providing men and women with partially paid leave of up to a year, or longer if there is no public child care. Policies are even more accommodating for government workers.
But just 6 percent of eligible fathers take child care leave, and most of them for less than a week, according to government data.
That is the 3 percent rate of a few years ago, but far short of the 13 percent target set by the government for 2020.
The telegenic Koizumi, popularly referred to as Shinjiro to distinguish him from his father, was appointed to the high-profile post in September. This was shortly after grabbing headlines with news that he was marrying Christel Takigawa, a French-Japanese television personality.
He has said Japan should eventually get rid of nuclear reactors, but he has also called for a low-carbon future, although he has yet to propose specific policies on how Japan should wean itself from its dependency on coal.