Jobs and the Future of Work

Meet the Japanese minister setting an example by taking paternity leave

Shinjiro Koizumi, a Japanese lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and son of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, announces to media with television presenter Christel Takigawa on their marriage plans, at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan August 7, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. - RC11FB3C2890

The environment minister announced the birth of his first son and his decision to take time off work. Image: REUTERS

Elaine Lies
Writer, Reuters
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  • Shinjiro Koizumi, son of former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, is taking two weeks of paternity leave to look after his new son.
  • While Japan’s parental leave policies are generous, just 6% of eligible fathers take leave.

Japanese environment minister Shinjiro Koizumi, who has said he will take paternity leave here in a rare move for a Japanese man, has announced the birth of his first child: a boy.

Japan's new Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi arrives to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan September 11, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato - RC1AD7EC2830
The move promotes his of 'womenomics' program which seeks to bolster female employment. Image: REUTERS/Issei Kato

Koizumi, son of charismatic former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi and seen as a future leader himself, had previously said he was planning to take two weeks of leave over three months, in an effort to become a role model for Japan’s working fathers.

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But some lawmakers have criticized his interest in taking parental leave, saying he should prioritize his public duties.

The telegenic Koizumi, popularly known as Shinjiro to distinguish him from his father, grabbed headlines in the summer of 2019 with news he was marrying Christel Takigawa, a French-Japanese television personality, and that they were expecting a child. Soon after, he was named environment minister.

Koizumi told reporters he had come straight from the hospital and had been by his wife’s side for the birth.

“As a father I’m really happy that a healthy boy was safely born,” a tired but happy Koizumi told a news conference. “Both of them are doing well, that’s the most important thing.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been trying to encourage more men to take paternity leave, and for businesses to allow a better work-life balance, as part of his “Womenomics” program of bolstering women’s employment.

While 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, just 6% of eligible fathers take child care leave, and most of them for less than a week, according to government data.

Koizumi acknowledged that he has heard comments both for and against his decision.

“I’ll keep a priority on policy and on managing anything unexpected that comes up, while also carving out time for childcare,” he said.

Cabinet ministers lauded Koizumi’s decision, with Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura - a father of three daughters - hoping it would have a positive social impact.

“I hope he can take as much time as possible. It’ll be really good if many more men follow his example and take time off.”

Koizumi himself seemed to still be adjusting to his new role.

“I don’t really feel like a father yet, but that should come soon. I want to be a father like my dad was,” he was quoted by NHK television as saying.

Shinjiro’s father divorced his mother when she was pregnant with their third son and never remarried. He told the couple when they announced their marriage that everybody “should try matrimony once”.

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