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Special Project] TOKYO “Ikugyo” Conference
From “Maternity Leave” to “Childcare Work”: Changing the Mindset of All Generations!

 This is the second edition of the “Tokyo Ikugyo” Conference, held as a special Ikugyo project ( click here for the first edition).
 It has been more than 10 years since the term “ikumen” became widely known, and we discussed the changes that have occurred during that time and the differences in awareness between generations.


■Sachiko Hanyu, Visiting Researcher, Nikkei xwoman, Author and Media Producer
Rie Yamaguchi (Post-maternity leave consultant)
■Yoshihisa Aono, President and Representative Director, Cybozu, Inc.
Takashi Kuroda (Company employee, father of 4 children, has taken childcare leave 3 times, expecting his 5th child in December)
Kohara Kunitsugu (Company employee, father of 2 children, currently in childcare for the second time, 1 year and 1 month)
*Facilitator: Joji Sugiyama (Editor-in-Chief of “Papa Shirube,” a child-rearing information website)

(Titles omitted)


 How has the male childcare industry changed in 2022?

-(Sugiyama)In 2022, the revised Child Care and Family Care Leave Law will come into effect. How do you all see the changes in the past 12 years since 2010, when “ikumen” won the new word of the year award?

green field
 The number of men who drop off and pick up children from daycare has increased considerably. At first it was just drop-offs, but recently the number of men picking up their children has also increased. This was unthinkable 12 years ago when our oldest child was born. However, I have a strong feeling that the change is probably taking too long.

 Even before the revision, Japan’s childcare leave system was recognized by UNICEF as the best in the world, but we feel that there has not been much time to accelerate the pace to promote the use of childcare leave. However, looking at the rate of male employees taking childcare leave, it will be 13.97% in FY2021, which is 10 times higher than 10 years ago when the rate was in the 1% range, and more than 100 times higher than 25 years ago when the rate was 0.12% in 1996. It is an amazing change. I am certain that both the awareness of the individuals themselves and the environment in which they are tolerated by those around them are changing.

downy mildew (disease)
 Ten years ago, in 2012, I launched Nikkei DUAL, a media outlet that supports co-workers. Men were not taking time off work to raise their children, so I was half-righteous in my desire to make that the norm in the world. At that time, whenever I found an iconic scene that represented male child-rearing, I would photograph it for an image to be used in an article. 10 years ago, on a Monday morning, it was moms in the line at the pediatrician’s office nine times out of ten, and when dads were popping up, it was a very treasured image! I would take a picture of the fathers. This is a good-looking man! I thought. But about three or four years ago, it became so rare that I no longer feel like taking pictures.

– Things are changing, but the percentage of men taking maternity leave in FY2021 is still 13.97%. What do you think needs to change to speed up the process?

green field
 The image I have is the sense that there are companies that are advanced like a shoofly bug and have gone far ahead of the rest, while there are companies that have not moved at all. So-called bipolarization. If you don’t move the companies that don’t change at all, they won’t move as a whole.

 I am sure that is true, but I feel that the efforts are having an effect. I conduct employee training such as seminars on returning to work after childcare leave, and at such companies, the number of male employees taking childcare leave is steadily increasing because the message from the company is clearly conveyed. I think there are some companies that are having a hard time making a move, but I think that will change as more and more examples are seen. I have heard that when a supervisor or a senior employee takes the leave, everyone takes it at once.

– Mr. Obara was moved by the very example of his seniors, wasn’t he?

 Yes, I did. I was told by a senior father employee who had done childcare work that I should definitely take it, and also my boss at the company where I did childcare work was a big encouragement to me. That is why I want to transmit this experience of childcare first and foremost, and then have people understand it. When I posted my life over the first two months of childcare on the company’s social networking site, I received a variety of responses. This experience made me feel that it is important to tell all about the good and the bad, and that this is how we have done this case. Just as I was encouraged by my seniors and my boss dad, now I want to be able to encourage the next generation through our experience.

 After I returned to work after taking a four-month childcare leave, a junior colleague of mine, who only knew me by name, said to me, “I’m taking a childcare leave next time. I was happy to hear that he told me that he decided to take the leave because he had heard that you had taken it. I realized that people around me are watching me more closely than I thought and that I have an influence on them. As Mr. Obara said, I realized that spreading the word makes it easier for some people to obtain the certification.

Differences in attitudes are more generational than gender differences

downy mildew (disease)
 In a 2021 Cabinet Office poll, when asked “What kind of work do you think is ideal? the number of respondents who chose “a job that allows me to balance my personal life” showed only a slight difference by gender, and the largest difference was by generation. I think it is problematic to focus only on the differences between men and women and not on the differences between generations.
 Companies are now facing fierce competition for human resources. In such an environment, it is important to change views on work, happiness, and life. If you don’t make it easy to raise children or allow diversity in life, talented people will leave in droves. It is important to realize that the gap in this way of thinking is not between men and women, but between generations.

green field
 There are some things that really hit home. As another example, when a survey is conducted on the issue of selective surname selection, many of the younger generations are in favor of it, without much difference between men and women. On the other hand, many people in their 70s and older are against it. The structure is similar, isn’t it? They say it is a gender issue, but in fact it is a generational issue.

 For example, I heard that Sekisui House, Ltd. has a 100% male childcare leave rate after the president went to Scandinavia and changed his mind. I think it is also important for young people to find people who understand them and make them their allies.


<Continued next time>.

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