Japan's environment minister on Wednesday said he would take two weeks of paternity leave
By law, Japan offers comparatively generous parental leave to employed workers
Tokyo: Japan's environment minister on Wednesday said he would take two weeks of paternity leave, the first time a cabinet minister has publicly committed to such a move in the country.
Shinjiro Koizumi, a media-savvy 38-year-old married to a former television anchorwoman, told a ministry meeting it had been a difficult decision to balance his duties as minister and his desire to be with his newborn.
"I want to take a total of two weeks off flexibly, making exceptions for important public duties," he said, adding he hoped his decision would help change perceptions and encourage other fathers to follow suit.
He will not take the weeks off consecutively and said he expected to work remotely or have shortened days during the leave period -- which will be spread over three months from his child's birth.
The government's top spokesman backed the move, saying it was "important to create a conducive work-place atmosphere and social acceptance and support for men to ask for and take parental leave."Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that he hoped Koizumi's decision would have a positive impact on attitudes to male parenting.
There are no official records on whether cabinet ministers have previously taken parental leave, but Koizumi is the first to publicly announce he is doing so.
The son of a former Prime Minister, Koizumi was named environment minister in a cabinet reshuffle in September, becoming the third-youngest Japanese minister since the end of World War II.
He has been closely scrutinised as a potential rising star in the government, with his comments and behaviour subject to intense media dissection.