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Tweet of the Week #34: The Truth About Paternity Leave in Japan

Learn how to say something has just finished in Japanese with this week's infuriating viral tweet.

By 4 min read

On paper, Japan’s paternity leave sounds really, really great. The OECD even ranks Japan as an exemplary country thanks to what looks like one of the most progressive parental laws among the developed nations.

Broadly speaking, employees that have worked for the same company for at least a year are entitled to take up to one year of childcare paid leave. Yes, one full year. To keep the numbers simple, just know that for the first six months, the government will pay two-thirds of the employee’s monthly base salary, and half for the remaining six months. Not bad at all.

The real story

Sadly, according to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in 2018, only 6.16 percent of fathers actually dare to take paternity leave.

When they do, the average duration is 10 days.

This is actually not surprising at all given that Japan still considers men as the main provider for their family while practically tossing women out of their jobs as soon as they become mothers. It’s a sad reality embodied by the colloquial expression マタハラ (“mata-hara“) the short version of マタニティハラスメント, a combo of maternity and harassment, that surfaced in 2014.

The bad news is that now you can add パタハラ (“pata-hara“), short for パタニティハラスメント, paternity harassment, to the list of hot topics currently debated in Japan.

Just got a kid and built a new house? Congrats! We’re transferring you far, far away!

Yup. That’s a typical sneaky move from old-school Japanese “black” companies. When their male employees get a kid or buy a house, the higher-ups strategically transfer them out to another office. It’s a twisted way to show who’s boss, counting on the employee feeling stuck with all the costs associated with childcare. Because who would leave their jobs when they have a mortgage and family to take care of?

Well, enough was enough for this mother who rage-tweeted about what happened when her husband went back to work after taking four weeks of paternity leave.

あらためて決意けつい
おっと日系にっけい一部上場企業いちぶじょうじょうきぎょう育休いくきゅうとったらけて2ふつか関西かんさい転勤てんきん内示ないじわたし復職ふくしょくまで2週間しゅうかん、2にさいと0ぜろさいは4しがつてんえん入園にゅうえんできたばかり、新居しんきょ引越ひっこしして10日後とおかごのこと。
いろいろかけい、有給ゆうきゅうらせてもらえず、結局けっきょく昨日きのう退職たいしょく、夫は今日きょうから専業主夫せんぎょうしゅふになりました。

私産後さんご4か月よんかげつ家族かぞく4よにんささえます

My husband was working for a Japanese company listed on the “First Section” of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (=supposedly a company providing a good working environment). Two days after coming back from paternity leave, he received an order to be transferred to the Kansai area.

I had only 2 weeks left of maternity leave, my newborn baby and my 2-year-old kid had just been accepted and transferred to nursery school, and we also just moved into our new home 10 days ago. He sought advice but couldn’t obtain paid leave. Finally, he resigned and is now a stay-at-home father.

Although I gave birth 4 months ago, I’m now the sole provider for my family.

Creating a butterfly effect, @papico2016’s tweet quickly turned into a storm of internet backlash against her husband’s company whose name, Kaneka Corporation, got out as online users dug up the information.

In what was a poor attempt to divert the angry reactions, the company took down their website’s paternity leave “About” page. But as the viral spiral continued — and their market share began to fall — the page was turned back on.

To add fuel to the fire, not only was he cornered into resigning from his job, but her husband was also harassed by his superiors into not taking his (deserved) remaining 20 days of paid holidays. He asked his boss the permission to work until the end of June, in order to leave his projects in order but was bluntly told that if he wanted to leave, it was now or never. A sly way to prevent him from getting the company yearly bonus.

To read Japanese users comments and reactions to the ordeal, you can look up the hashtags #パタハラ and #カネカ.

We had just moved in!

Here’s an easy – but always good to know – expression to say something has just finished/occurred.

Verb past casual tense + ばかり

  • 新居に引越したばかりです!= We just moved into our new house!
  • 勉強べんきょうしたばかりですが、わすれました・・・= I just studied this but I forgot…

Don’t get mixed up with verb + te form + ばかり which then means “only/always do something/the same thing”.

  • 子供こどもがスマホゲームでおそんでばかりで勉強しない。= Kids are constantly playing games on their smartphone instead of studying.

Finally, remember that when coupled with a noun, ばかり means “only” or “just”.

  • 文句もんくばかりうな!= Quit complaining!

Vocabulary

Japanese Romaji English
あらためて aratamete again
決意けつい ketsui determination
おっと otto husband
日系にっけい nikkei Japanese
一部上場企業いちぶじょうじょうきぎょう ichibu joujou kigyou First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange
育休いくきゅう ikukyuu childcare leave
関西かんさい kansai Kansai (region in Japan)
転勤てんきん
tenkin be transferred/relocated (for work)
内示ないじ
naiji unofficial announcement
復職ふくしょく fukushoku come back (to work)
まで
made until
X 週間しゅうかん X shuukan X week(s)
X さい X sai X year-old
4月しがつ shi gatsu April
転園てんえん tenen transfer (to nursery)
入園にゅうえん nyuuen admission (to nursery)
新居しんきょ shinkyo new home
引越ひっこしする hikkoshi suru move in
いろいろ iroiro various, diverse
かけ
kakeau to bargain, negotiate
有給ゆうきゅう yuukyuu paid holidays
結局けっきょく kekkyoku finally, in the end
昨日きのう kinou yesterday
退職たいしょく taishoku resign
今日きょうから kyou kara from today
専業主夫せんぎょうしゅふ sengyoushufu stay-at-home dad
になる ni naru become
産後さんご sango after childbirth
家族かぞく kazoku family
ささえる sasaeru to support

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