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Special Project] TOKYO “Ikugyo” Conference
Part 1: From “Maternity Leave” to “Childcare” Changing Minds for the Future!


 In an effort to change the mindset of society to think of “childcare leave” not as a period of time off from work, but as a period of time to nurture children, who are the treasure of society, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government solicited nicknames for childcare leave and decided on “iku-gyou” (育業).
 With the enforcement of the revised Child Care and Family Care Leave Law, a system that makes it easier for men to take care of their children will begin to take effect in 2022. As a special project for child-rearing, we held the “TOKYO ‘Child-rearing’ Conference. We had a heated discussion about the current situation and issues surrounding child-rearing. We will report on the discussion in three articles!

<Participants> From left to right (titles omitted)
■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)

Words make it easier to take the first step.

-(Sugiyama) “Childcare leave” has been nicknamed “childcare work. As a member of the selection committee, Aono-san, what points did you consider?

green field
 I was originally a “childcare” proponent, but one thing I wanted to do was to deal with the image of “rest”. It’s not a vacation by any stretch of the imagination. It is harder than work! I wanted to express that. The other was the character for “kyo” (work). It is also used in the character for “study,” but it has a nuance of “place of learning” or “improving oneself while learning,” so I thought “育業” was a good choice.


– How about you two active dads?

 I really like the term “nurture.” I think the word is just a trigger, but with a little nuance, it makes it easier to take a step forward. Some may criticize, “It’s just a word anyway. However, I think those words are very important. That is why I want to promote “childcare leave” more and more. But I am so used to saying “childcare leave” that I often say “childcare leave” without thinking (laughs).

 Actually, I wanted to tell my boss that I would be taking childcare leave because my fifth child would be born in December, but I thought he would not understand if I said “childcare,” so I said “childcare leave. I guess it is important how much it permeates the company.

– Don’t you feel that the word “rest” in “maternity leave” and “childcare leave” is not so strange for women, since they have to rest their bodies after giving birth?

green field
 I was present at the births of three of my children, but I don’t think it was a vacation, in fact, it was the opposite. In fact, it is a place where “life and death” take place. It is not limited to childbirth, but I feel that Japan has a certain “type” of birth. There is a deep-rooted belief that a baby must be born with an aching belly, and the division of roles between men and women is the same, and I feel that people are trapped in this “mold. And it is hard to accept something that is not.

downy mildew (disease)
 I have a feeling that the term “childcare work” has a “type” as you mentioned. I don’t have any particular resistance to “maternity leave” or “childcare leave” for women, but for men, they have a role to play in the company, so if they add “kyogyo” to their duties instead of “leave,” it feels like part of their job and is more likely to be approved by their bosses, I guess. I felt again that it is impossible to say OK without such a “pattern”.

 I think it is good that the decision was made to use “childcare leave” as a result, but I think the process is important. We all started by asking why “childcare leave” was not good enough, and then we all discussed what kind of name would be best. I think it was good that the process became a topic of discussion.

For “nurturing” to spread

– How can we spread “nurturing business” more widely in the world?

green field
 The rate of men taking childcare leave has gone up a lot compared to 12 years ago (2010) when I first took it. If we can extend this, there is no doubt that it will break even now.

– But in 2021, it was 13.97% (from 12.65% the year before), which wasn’t a big increase.

 This 13.97% figure is before the law was revised, so I think we can expect to see more from this point on.

green field
 The next question is whether this trend can be maintained. If we end up in a bad scenario where only those companies that have already started promoting the use of childcare leave move forward and those that have not yet done so do not follow suit, the childcare leave take-up rate may stop at around 20%. We need to somehow move the remaining 80% or so.

 In a survey conducted by Mynavi (a job hunting information website) of job hunters, 60% of male job hunters said they would like to take childcare leave. This makes me feel optimistic. I think it will already be the norm for the next generation. However, it is certain that there are people who do not have the courage to do so now, so it is important to disseminate positive examples. I try to spread the word on Facebook as much as possible, such as the percentage of employees taking childcare leave in this municipality. I think it is important for everyone to be aware of this, to spread the word about good examples, and to promote a change in awareness by saying, “This company and this type of business are increasing, so we must change too. It is very good that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has solicited names for the theme of childcare leave this time. I hope such activities will spread.

downy mildew (disease)
 If there is one more push, it is for companies to get serious about it. Until now, companies have been stopped from various directions because of concerns about the reaction of people in their 60s and 70s who are not willing to engage in childcare. However, when it becomes necessary to disclose all information on employees as non-financial information, companies that cannot promote childcare will no longer be chosen as investment targets. Companies have no choice but to do this. I feel that the increasing “external pressure” from investors and users will be a powerful trigger.

 I am sure things are changing at certain companies, but I think we need to do something about the companies that are being left behind. I, too, found it very difficult to ask for maternity leave. One of the reasons for this is that as I rose in my position, I began to think about management and other matters. When I think about where to fill in for my replacement and how to increase profits, I find it hard to do so. If the company as a whole does not have an organization that can supplement its human resources, it is difficult for employees to say, “I will do childcare work. As a company, we need to create an organization that always has room to grow. However, it is still tough for small and medium-sized companies.

 I also feel that while more and more companies, especially large ones, are making progress, there are still many companies that are being left behind. When I interviewed people of various corporate sizes about their level of awareness and understanding of the nurturing industry, I find that they are at the level of “I have heard of it,” and although they are aware of it, they do not understand it. Small and medium-sized companies in particular responded, “It’s never going to happen in our company. I’ve heard this from a number of people, and they all gave the same answer. It really depends on the size of the company.

 But what if it is a woman who is raising children? Wouldn’t you say, “Well, that’s just the way it is.” The truth is, men should have no choice either. There is still a wall of consciousness there. I don’t see men and women in the same way. I’m sure there are many circumstances, but I feel like we are saying “it’s impossible” before we seriously think about how we can handle it. Maybe we need to share our know-how, like “I thought it was no good, but I tried it this way and it worked.


<Continued next time>.

◆Click here for other special projects in the nurturing industry.