When his child is born sometime in the coming weeks, Kensuke Miyazaki will become the first Japanese politician to take paternity leave, the BBC reports. It's been an unpopular decision, to say the least. "Does he realize that if a lawmaker goes on paternity leave, his voters' voice won't be reflected in parliament?" the BBC quotes one critic. "Paternity leave is for workers," states another critic. "Lawmakers are not workers." The secretary general of Miyazaki's own party even criticized his decision, according to the Guardian. “There will be a problem during an extremely tense situation if one vote can make a difference in the outcome,” he warned. Miyazaki only plans to take a month off for his child's birth.
New fathers in Japan are allowed a full year of paid leave, earning nearly 60% of their salary over that time, the BBC reports. But only 2.3% of Japanese men actually used any of their paternity time in 2015. One of the reasons, according to the Guardian, is pressure from employers (as we've seen in Miyazaki's case). Japan's government wants to get paternity-leave rates up to 13% by 2020. "It is still a long way off, so I thought by declaring that I want to take paternity leave as a lawmaker, I could set an example and cause a bit of a stir," Miyazaki tells the BBC. According to the Guardian, an increase in paternity leave would increase the number of women in the workplace, boosting both the economy and gender equality. The BBC notes it could also help increase Japan's low birthrates.