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Cabinet minister takes paternity leave in landmark move

Anastasia Santoreneos
Shinjiro Koizumi, Japan's newly-appointed environment minister, gestures while speaking during a news conference at the Prime Minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his cabinet Wednesday, appointing allies to key positions as he moves closer to becoming the country's longest-serving premier in November. Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg
Japan's environment minister makes history. Source: Getty

Japan’s environment minister Shinjiro Koizumi has revealed his plans to take paternity leave, making him the first minister in that country to do so.

Koizumi said he will take two weeks off in the first three months of his child’s life.

"I intend to take a total of two weeks of paternity leave in the three months after childbirth, during which the mother bears the heaviest burden, on the condition that I prioritise my official duties and thorough crisis management, as I have done," 38-year-old Koizumi told reporters.

Koizumi said he wouldn’t miss important public activities, but revealed his decision had sparked some public debate.

"Japan is rigid and outdated because society is caught up with fussing over pros and cons simply because I said I would consider [it],” he said.

By law, both men and women are entitled to take up to a year off work for maternity and paternity leave, but in 2018, only 6 per cent of fathers did so, compared with 82 per cent of mothers.

Paternity leave in Australia

While working dads and partners are eligible for 2 weeks’ paid leave from the government, only one-in-20 fathers take primary parental leave.

According to a recent study, there was a 50 per cent increase in the number of companies embracing the idea of paid parental leave for dads.

That same study revealed Deloitte Australia topped the list for best workplaces for new dads, offering 18 weeks’ paid parental leave with each employee able to take the time off over a three-year window.

“The removal of the primary and secondary carer labels in our policy helped immensely to remove the misconception that parental leave was only for women,” Deloitte’s inclusion leader Margaret Dreyer said.

“We simply call it ‘parental leave’ and it’s available to both parents, regardless of gender or caring role.”

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