Japanese statute permits employees to take unpaid statutory child care leave (both maternity and paternity) until their child’s first birthday. Though unpaid by the employer, the government pays a subsidy equal to 50 percent of their base salary (subject to a cap at ¥204,750 per month). However, only 1.7 percent of new fathers took the leave in 2009, compared with 85.6 percent of new mothers.

A recent statutory amendment, designed to encourage fathers to take this leave, implemented what is known as “pop-and-mom plus.” This allows the spouse of an employee on childcare leave to take his/her own childcare leave more flexibly. The spouse’s leave may commence on the birth of the child or at any time before the child’s first birthday, and will end when the spouse chooses, provided that this is no later than the earlier of (i) the expiry of 12 months, and (ii) two months after the child’s first birthday. The cut-off under the old statute was the child’s first birthday. The Government hopes that fathers will choose to take/remain on leave for the two months following the expiration of the mother’s 12-months leave, to assist her transition back into the workplace, whether this be the final two months of the father’s 12-months leave or an independent two month period commencing at their child’s first birthday. Though a significant increase in fathers taking the leave is unlikely, it will hopefully increase its social acceptance in the future.