Child-caring Dads in Japan

Ikumen; the Japanese campaign to make fatherhood sexy” — Quartz, 2019, 7:40

A timely video about gender equality in the workforce and at home. Time use studies show us Japanese men spend just 41 minutes (on average) of child care each day compared with 244 minutes on the part of women, and this imbalance is a key hurdle to women’s participation in the (paid) economy. Furthermore, while the Japanese government has established generous parental leave policies (fathers can take up to a year off) only 5% of fathers end up taking any leave at all. Legislation does not necessarily change culture so the government is turning to the public relations campaign instead. The Ikumen project encourages dads to spend time with children while eliminating some of the stigma associated with taking time off work. It is designed to increase the involvement a father has in a child’s development while giving mothers some reprieve, especially since women are underrepresented in the country’s workforce.

There’s some important criticism of this effort at the end of this video. The Ikumen campaign makes it seem like any domestic labor on the part of men is deserving of praise while women continue to do far more (and are often unpraised). It also seems that the government is only interested in more female workers rather than achieving more gender equality.

So, what are we to make of the Ikumen campaign? Is it a step in the right direction or a distraction from the real issue? How else can gender equality be promoted by the government, economy, and other institutions?

From the video’s description: Japan is tackling gender inequality with a "hunky dads" campaign. Japan’s workforce is shrinking and aging. To keep its economy growing, it needs more of its citizens to work, which means getting more women into the workplace. Nearly half of Japanese women quit their jobs after the birth of their first child. To get mothers back to work, Japan’s government has focused on encouraging men to more fully share household responsibilities. The government started a campaign called the “ikumen” project.