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Japan plans subsidies for paternity leave

TOKYO -- The Japanese government will introduce subsidies for companies that let fathers take time off to care for their young children, part of efforts to promote women's participation in the workforce.

     Companies that have had no male employees take child care leave over the past three years will be eligible for the Welfare Ministry's program. They will be paid 300,000 yen ($2,483) for the first father to take leave and 150,000 yen for each additional worker, up to a total of five.

     Currently, only 2.3% of men whose spouses have given birth take paternity leave. Raising that number will help fathers support their wives in returning to work after giving birth.

     The ministry will also expand policies geared toward mothers of young children, designed to ease the transition back into the workforce after a period of full-time parenting. Career and trade schools that house child care centers will receive subsidies, allowing mothers to gain career skills without worrying about finding baby-sitters.

     The three- to six-month training programs will be geared mainly toward women in lower-income households, and will provide education with a focus in nursing, administration and sales. Participants would receive a stipend of up to 100,000 yen per month, plus payment of transportation costs.

     Increasing women's workplace participation is becoming a more pressing task as Japan's working-age population shrinks. Around 60% of Japanese women leave their jobs for childbirth. Yet the pace of technological and other developments makes it difficult for those who have spent years as full-time parents to resume their careers. The new policies aim to both keep more women in the workforce after childbirth and help mothers gain the skills necessary to return to work after time off.


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