Increasing the amount of child-care leave taken by men will help create a social environment more conducive to child-rearing.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has started discussions highly likely to result in raising the child-care benefits paid through employment insurance.
The anticipated change is designed to increase the number of working men who take child-care leave. Fewer than 2 percent do so now.
The ministry plans to submit a bill to revise the Employment Insurance Law to the ordinary Diet session next year.
Under the current system, a working couple is able to take child-care leave, in principle, until their baby is 14 months old if the leave is taken by only one parent at a time. A parent taking leave is entitled to receive benefits worth 50 percent of the wages earned before taking the leave.
The government is likely to raise the child-care leave benefit to 67 percent of wages for at least the first six-month period for each parent.
For example, if a new mother takes two months of maternity leave after giving birth, followed by child-care leave for six months, and then her husband takes child-care leave for the next six months, the couple would be assured of a full year of child-care benefits worth 67 percent of the wages of whichever parent was taking leave at the time.
The government hopes that by boosting such economic assistance, the child-care leave taken by men will increase.
Yet there is also a sense of unwillingness in business circles.
While the central government pays for a little under 7 percent of the child-care leave benefit, the rest is to be covered by insurance for which employers and employees pay equally. Therefore, the increase in the benefit is likely to raise the financial burden on both labor and management.