Updated October 28, 2023
All About Childcare Leave: Paternity and Maternity Leave in Japan
Going through pregnancy is hard. With all the doctor visits, shopping for clothes, diapers, and binkies, and the never-ending and nerve-wracking anticipation of expecting a child, it can all get quite exhausting.
However, everybody knows that the real challenge begins once the baby is born. Not only will you have a whole new person who depends entirely on you to take care of themselves, but you’ll also won’t be able to get much rest.
In certain cases, you may even have to deal with post-partum blues, which affects 1 in 7 people after giving birth, and is a serious problem that deeply affects both the parents and the baby.
This is the reality and the aftermath of childbirth for most, and unfortunately, it isn’t possible for everyone to “have it all” right after having a newborn.
Looking at it this way, you’d think that adding the stress of work to this equation is a recipe for disaster, but it’s something most people have to deal with. Luckily, childcare leave is very much a thing in Japan, and both the father and the mother’s rights to take care of their newborn child is protected under the Japanese Labor Standards Act.
In today’s post, I’ll introduce maternity leave and paternity leave laws in Japan. I’ll also talk about your rights regarding childcare allowance and leave and how these rights can be exercised when the time comes.
Without further delay, let’s start with childcare leave.
In this article: 📝
In this article: 📝
Childcare Leave: The System, The Numbers, and The Law
To put it in the simplest terms, childcare leave (育児休業) is the time off that’s provided to an employee before and after they have a new child.
This includes both biological and adoptive parenthood, of course, and it allows the parents to take some time off from work to take care of themselves and their newborn while still having job security.
While childcare leave has been a thing for a long time in Japan and many countries, historically, it was mostly accepted and recognized in the form of maternity leave, which only allowed women who gave birth to benefit from the system.
However, the culture around childcare leave has been changing as there’s a much-needed talk around gender norms and appointed roles going on. Nowadays, it’s perfectly fine for fathers to take childcare leave or paternity leave. It’s even included in Japan’s Childcare Leave and Family Care Leave Act, allowing men to benefit from the system as much as women do.
However, whether paternity leave is well utilized or not is another story.
Low Paternity Leave Rates
Officially, fathers taking childcare leave is not a brand new concept in Japan as the law allows both women and men to take it. However, the reality is that the practice is not yet equal, as men have historically underutilized childcare leave to a criminal degree.
It’s true that paternity leave as it’s known today has only been a thing as part of the Japanese government’s work/life balance initiative, as it was only recognized with an update to the Childcare Leave and Family Care Leave Act in 2022.
Before that, mothers could take “childcare leave at birth (産前・産後休業)”, or “maternity leave (育児休業)”, and fathers could also take a similar leave called “Papa leave (パパ休暇), however, the latter one wasn’t as well-utilized as the former in practice.
Even though Papa Leave did exist, it was much harder to be eligible for it compared to women’s maternity leave. Besides, it wasn’t a socially embraced concept, and most men wouldn’t even apply for the Papa Leave out of societal pressure, which made it practically useless.
As expected, the underutilization of Papa Leave also put immense pressure on women during the hardest stages of childcare, making them effectively the sole person responsible for the care of a newborn right after giving birth.
The update to the act was made in an effort to promote fathers’ involvement in their children’s development and help families balance life and work more efficiently. That being said, both men and women were still able to take childcare leave in the first year of their child’s birth even before the introduction of childcare leave at birth for men (産後パパ育休・出生時育児休業).
Source: Basic Survey on Equal Employment in 2022 - Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare
Unfortunately, despite this, according to a survey conducted in 2022 among business establishments by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, the rates of male employees taking childcare leave are still significantly lower compared to women.
Before the establishment of paternity leave, men’s rate of taking maternity leave was consistently below 10%, and it only jumped up to 13,97% in 2021 and to 17,13% in 2022. Hopefully, with the recent changes, it will become more common for fathers to take childcare leave at birth and these numbers will show a more significant increase in the future.
Mothers Are Still Holding Down The Fort
You’d think that the addition made to the act regarding paternity leave would be immediately celebrated and embraced, but the reality is that most people don’t even know it exists, and mothers are pretty much still handling most of the work when it comes to childcare.
Indeed, the numbers speak for themselves. Before paternity leave was introduced in 2022, over a whopping 80% of women employees took childcare leave annually. When paternity leave became a thing, the consistency in the numbers didn’t really change that much.
Still, men’s rate of taking leave went up by 3,16 points in a single year after the Act was updated, which is a promising improvement.
Who Is Eligible?
Before I get to the specifics of maternity leave, paternity leave, and childcare support, the final — and arguably the most important — thing I need to explain is who the act is specifically for. So, let’s look at what the law says to define who is eligible.
First of all, childcare leave at birth for women (産前産後休業) is a right for all females who are pregnant regardless of their contract types or employment status. However, things are a bit different when it comes to childcare leave at birth for men (産後パパ育休 / 出生時育児休業).
Essentially, the law states that in order to be eligible for “childcare leave at birth for men”, you need to be employed by a company and must be paying employment insurance. This means being either a Seishain (正社員), Keiyaku-shain (契約社員) or dispatch worker (派遣社員 Haken-shain) so, it basically comes as a lawful benefit of a job contract.
The same rule applies for childcare leave that isn't at birth, for both men and women. You need to be either a Seishain (正社員), Keiyaku-shain (契約社員) or dispatch worker (派遣社員 Haken-shain) in order to be eligible.
That being said, those who work on limited-term contracts, such as part-time workers, can also be eligible. The conditions differ depending on whether it’s childcare leave at birth for men or childcare leave (after birth) for both men and women.
For childcare leave at birth, the condition is that the employee's contract shouldn’t expire before the child turns at least 8 months old, and for childcare leave, this period is extended until the child reaches 18 months old.
Unfortunately, however, freelancers (業務委託, Gyoumu-itaku) or corporate executives (役員, Yakuin) are not eligible for childcare leave at birth for men (産後パパ育休 / 出生時育児休業). If you want to learn more about employment contract types in Japan, you can read my post on Japanese job contracts, where I went into greater detail.
Now that you know who’s eligible, let’s get down to the specifics starting with childcare leave at birth or maternity/paternity leave.
Childcare Leave at Birth: Maternity Leave and Paternity Leave
As you know by this point, although both are referred to as “childcare leave” due to the terms maternity and paternity becoming somewhat obsolete, childcare leave at birth and regular childcare leave are different benefits established by separate articles of the law.
Before I get to the childcare leave system, I’ll first explain the concepts of maternity and paternity leave, as they both involve distinct conditions. Let’s begin by describing maternity leave and explain the conditions stated in the law.
Essentially, maternity leave is the type of leave offered to female employees by law, which they can use in the pre-natal (before birth) or post-natal (after birth) period of their pregnancies.
The law states that a pregnant or “newly parent” employee can take maternity leave six weeks before the expected birth date and up to 8 weeks after giving birth.
This means that women are entitled to a total of 14 weeks before and after giving birth as part of maternity leave, but you may be wondering where the childcare leave stands in regard to this rule. Let’s take a look at the legislation.
As a rule, the law states that including the post-partum leave, or childcare leave taken after birth, an employee can take a maximum of one year off for childcare leave. This period can be extended for up to 2 years as well, which I’ll explain later in the article.
This means that the post-natal eight weeks you take as part of maternity leave will be calculated together with the childcare leave you take after the eight weeks pass, which can’t be longer than a total of one year without any extensions.
If you have an expected birth date and you arrange your leave according to this, no need to worry, as the law also stipulates that you can still take your leave as planned.
If the birth happens before the planned date, on the other hand, you can also change the date to start on the actual day you give birth, thanks to the fact the law was drafted to be flexible.
Just like mothers are entitled to maternity leave, thanks to the recent updates made to the Childcare and Family Care Leave Act, fathers are also entitled to something called “paternity leave.” Paternity leave can be in two forms: Childcare Leave at Birth For Men (産後パパ育休 / 出生時育児休業) and Childcare Leave (育児休業) which is for both men and women.
While childcare leave was a thing for fathers prior to the changes in the law under the name “Papa Leave (パパ休暇), this was hard to get due to requirements that were hard to meet and it also wasn’t used as much.
Besides, there was a social stigma around it that kept men from using it. The recent update changed this system and established Childcare at Birth Leave (産後パパ育休 / 出生時育児休業), making it easier as well as more socially acceptable for men to take childcare leave.
Fathers are able to use their childcare leave at birth after the child is born, more specifically, in the first eight weeks of their child’s birth. In this eight-week period, fathers are entitled to four weeks of Childcare at Birth Leave (産後パパ育休 / 出生時育児休業).
The four weeks can be taken in two separate installments as well, as long as both installments are taken within the first eight weeks of a child’s birth.
In the case of adoption, adoptive fathers also have the right to take childcare leave at birth, with the condition being that the child they’re adopting is less than a year old. The period they can take and the other eligibility requirements are the same, of course.
Just like mothers do during maternity leave, fathers also continue to get paid during the time they’re on paternity leave, more specifically, 67% of their normal salary, but I’ll explain the precise method to calculate your earnings during this period below in more detail.
The Japanese government has also recently announced a new policy that aims to raise the childcare leave benefits to 80%, which, at first, will temporarily come into effect for men in order to promote paternity leave.
So far, I covered childcare leave at birth for both fathers and mothers, which I’ve referred to as paternity and maternity leave to keep things more clear. Now, let’s talk about a different type of childcare leave, which refers specifically to the leave taken after the childcare leave at birth.
Basically, childcare leave is the leave taken by employees after the first 8 weeks of a child’s life until the day the child turns one year old. Make no mistake, however, as this right specifically ends the day before your child turns one, so make sure to plan accordingly.
Moreover, if you and your spouse are both working, there’s also a “dad and mom childcare leave plus (パパ・ママ育休プラス)” system that allows both parents to take leave within an extended period of one year and two months.
Basically, as long as one parent takes leave later than the other, they can stay with the child until the child reaches 14 months old. However, keep in mind that the maximum amount of leave that can be taken, which is one year, doesn’t change here.
So, for instance, the father can take leave later than the period stated by the law if the mother takes leave first, and the father can still take a one-year leave until the child is 14 months old.
If, however, there’s still a need for an extension, this is also possible. Here’s how it works.
Extension of Childcare Leave
While the first year may be the hardest, if you’re both working parents and aren’t able to find a daycare center or have parents who can take care of your child, you’re still not out of the woods.
Luckily, if you’re unable to find a daycare and need more time to figure things out, you have a right to extend your childcare leave. Keep in mind, however, that this is an expectation rather than a rule.
So, it’s possible to extend the leave period upon application only if you can prove with documentation that the child isn’t enrolled in a daycare center.
Essentially, considering you’re able to prove your situation with proper documentation, the extension period lasts until the day before the child turns one year and six months old. If, however, you’re unable to place your child in daycare by then and are able to prove it with the appropriate documentation, the term can be extended again until the day before the child turns two years old.
While it used to be only possible to take the extension the day your child turned one or one year and six months old, since October 2022, this is no longer the case, and it can be taken anytime during the extended period.
All About The Benefits: Calculating Your Childcare Leave Allowance
Now that you know the rights and time-off benefits you’ll receive as part of Japan’s childcare leave system, it’s time to get to arguably the most important part of it all: How much will you get paid during childcare leave?
After all, your life expenses double and even triple in a matter of days, and you won’t even have time to earn extra money, let alone do your main job, as you’ll be all out looking after your kid. So, it’s only natural to wonder what will happen to your salary and how much of a cut you’ll receive.
First of all, as a working individual in Japanese society, you should relax knowing that there’s a system in place to help you financially maintain yourself while you take care of your kid. You’ll continue receiving a salary, albeit not in full.
As one of the main purposes of the childcare system is to provide job security during a time when you’ll be preoccupied with taking care of a child and aren’t able to work, you’ll also be happy to know that you’ll keep more than half of your monthly salary in this period.
What’s more, the childcare leave allowance isn’t classified as taxable income, which means that you won’t have to pay income tax or employee insurance out of the allowance. If, however, your company also continues to pay you your regular salary during this time, as some companies do, you’ll still need to pay income tax and insurance for this amount.
You’ll also still need to pay residence taxes during the time you receive childcare allowance, as residence tax is calculated based on your earnings from the previous year.
Still, not having to pay income tax or employee insurance means that unless you earn way above average, your monthly salary will still be close to what you’d normally make in a month.
Now, to get into the specifics of childcare benefits, let’s see how you can calculate how much your salary will be during childcare leave so you can prepare for what’s to come.
Calculating Childcare Leave Salary
To put it in the simplest terms, you’ll continue to receive 67% of your salary during the time you take off from work under “childcare leave.”
This number doesn’t appear out of thin air, of course.
The law stipulates that the monthly salary of a waged worker who takes childcare leave is to be calculated on a daily basis, which is calculated by multiplying the daily wage of a worker with the days to be paid in childcare leave and then multiplying this with the rate stated in the Act, which is 67 percent (50% after 180 days). Here’s the formula:
Total Childcare Leave Benefits = Daily wage at the beginning of your leave x Number of days paid x 67%
Of course, while the term “daily wage” may seem clear enough at first, most people get paid on a monthly basis, and it’s normal not to know your exact daily wage. If that’s the case, here’s how you can calculate that:
Your current daily wage = The total of your wages in the past six months ÷ 180 days
Remember, however, that when calculating your daily wage, you need to use the total amount before the taxes are deducted. As I’ve mentioned before, you don’t have to pay taxes out of your childcare leave salary, and the calculations are made accordingly.
Lastly, keep in mind that childcare leave has a total limit. This is why I mentioned that you’ll most likely get almost as much as your salary unless your job pays way above average.
The payout limit for the childcare leave is updated yearly, so it’s always a good idea to check the ministry website.
To give you an idea, this payout limit is 305,319 JPY per month according to 2022 rates for the first 180 days of childcare leave and 227,850 JPY per month after that for the period where you’ll get 50 percent of your salary.
Recent Developments: Increasing the Childcare Leave Allowance
While the current system allows both the mother and the father to receive 67% of their salaries during childcare leave, as I mentioned before, there’s a newly announced government policy from March 2023 that aims to increase the childcare leave allowance to make it roughly equal to the employee’s normal salary.
According to a proposal based on this policy, the 67% allowance rate will increase to 80%, making it roughly equal to the normal salary considering no income tax or employee insurance premiums need to be paid during this period.
While the plan is to make things equal for both men and women eventually, the proposal states that men will be able to benefit from the change sooner.
It’s been announced that the 80% increase will first take effect for men only for a temporary period of time to incentivize fathers to take childcare leave. After a certain period, the benefit is expected to be made available for women as well.
Parental Leave vs Childcare Leave
If you made it this far, you now know what the limits of childcare leave （育児休業）in Japan are and the benefits you’ll receive when you take advantage of it. However, there’s another type of childcare leave（育児休暇 / 育児目的休暇） that isn’t mandatory by law but is common in practice.
After all, what I’ve covered so far, in a way, is the bare minimum. While your company is legally obliged to provide you with the benefits I’ve mentioned so far as long as you meet the requirements set by the legislation, employers who want to provide their employees with better perks are, of course, free to do more.
In practice, many modern or foreign companies in Japan, such as the ones we feature on the Japan Dev company list, provide extra leave for raising your children in the form of parental leave or nursing leave (子の看護休暇). While the legislative branch has somewhat incentivized these perks, they aren’t exactly enforced by law — they are only encouraged.
According to Article 24 of the Childcare and Family Care Leave Act, parental leave is leave that’s taken by employees to raise their children and a system that each employer establishes independently.
This, of course, means that companies that aren’t interested in creating desirable work conditions don’t have to provide more than the bare minimum stated in the law. However, times are fortunately changing.
Conclusion: A Competitive Hiring Landscape, Better Benefits
I talked about this in my post about Japanese work culture, but the landscape of employment has been changing in Japan with the effects of globalization becoming more and more prominent, much like everywhere else in the world.
So, as I conclude here, I’d like to say a few words on the landscape of employee perks and how they affect childcare leave.
While, as employees, we used to expect no more than the most basic benefits like job security and were content with just getting paid for the work we do, these basic worker rights are nowadays protected by law.
The job market is now a competitive space for not just candidates but for hiring companies as well. Companies not only have to meet seemingly “basic” needs like steady wages and a safe job environment but “perks” too, such as childcare/parental leave and nursing leave (子の看護休暇).
While these should also be considered basic needs instead of perks at this point, unfortunately, they aren’t protected by law as of yet.
Some traditional companies still don’t see parental leave or nursing leave as a true “necessity,” so they don’t offer them. They also typically hire people out of college, teach them on the job, and don’t care about qualifications as much (See my post on Japanese salarymen).
For modern and progressive companies to be able to bring in more talented people, however, it’s only natural that they need to offer better perks for childcare leave and parental leave. Some even offer full remote work, allowing you to spend more time with your kids and have a better work/life balance.
If you’re looking for such companies in Japan, the Japan Dev job board is your friend. We have new job listings added frequently, and all of the companies are personally vetted by our team and offer the best employee perks in Japan.
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