It's a boy! Japanese minister Koizumi's first child born, paternity leave looms

Clay Curtis
January 17, 2020

Shinjirō Koizumi, a media-savvy 38-year-old, married to a former television anchorwoman, told a ministry meeting it had been a hard decision to balance his duties as minister and his desire to be with his newborn.

Japan's environment minister announced he is taking paternity leave after the birth of his first child, and the news garnered worldwide headlines and shocked social media in a nation where "death from overwork" is considered a public health issue.

The irony: Japan has one of the world's most generous paternity leave policies, allowing fathers to take up to a year off. Soon after, he was named environment minister.

Following the announcement on Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga congratulated the Koizumi family.

There are diverse causes for the problem, some of which the government has sought to address by increasing nursery spaces and encouraging women to return to work after having children.

"I hope my taking paternity leave will lead the way of working styles to one where everyone can easily take child-care leave without hesitation in the environment ministry", Koizumi told his staff, according to the Times.

"I understand that opinions are still divided", he said.

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Critics have questioned his dedication to his work, The New York Times reported, and Koizumi admitted he "struggled" with his decision.

"I think it's a wonderful thing", said Hitoshi Aoki, a 35-year-old company employee. Of those who did take paternity leave, most took off less than a week.

Just 6% of men in the Japanese workforce take time off for paternity leave, and a lot of them are for less than a week, Reuters reported, citing government data.

A politician announcing that he's taking paternity leave typically doesn't make global headlines. "It'll be really good if many more men follow his example and take time off".

"I hope we can create a society that when someone making this action or judgement (of taking paternity leave), it won't be the norm that it becomes news".

Koizumi seemed to still be adjusting to his new role.

But just 6 percent of eligible fathers take child care leave, and majority for less than a week, according to government data. "I want to be a father like my dad was", he was quoted by NHK television as saying. He told the couple when they announced their marriage that everybody "should try matrimony once".

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