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Page last updated at 00:14 GMT, Saturday, 3 April 2010 01:14 UK

Japan mayor sets paternity leave 'example'

By Roland Buerk
BBC News, Tokyo

Hironobu Narisawa, 11 March
Hironobu Narisawa says he is aiming to change attitudes

A district mayor in the Japanese capital, Tokyo, is going on paternity leave on Saturday, the first local government leader ever to do so.

Hironobu Narisawa, the mayor of the central Bunkyo ward, said he was aiming to change attitudes.

Japanese workers are famously reluctant to take time off after the birth of a child even though Japanese law allows either parent to have up to a year off.

Mr Narisawa's announcement has been front page news in Japan.

Council meeting

No other local government leader, male or female, has taken time off after the birth of a child.

Nationwide, just one in 100 fathers takes any paternity leave.

None of the male employees of Bunkyo ward has done so.

Mr Narisawa, whose son was born in February, said he hoped his example would help to change attitudes.

Traditional gender roles remain entrenched in Japan, one reason why the birth rate is among the lowest in the world. The population is projected to shrink by a quarter by the middle of the century.

However, Mr Narisawa will not be entirely switching off from work during his two weeks of paternity leave.

He is planning to remain in the ward in case of emergencies and has already said he will be going to a council meeting on Thursday.



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