The Yomiuri Shimbun
TOKYO — The number of working fathers who use in-house childcare centers at their companies is gradually increasing, possibly indicating that more men are committed to sharing the responsibilities of child care.
IBM Japan, Ltd. opened IBM Japan Kogamo childcare center at its Hakozaki head office in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, this month. The facility is used by 18 employees, nine of whom are men.
One of them is Hisataka Furukawa, 37, who works in the firm’s marketing department. He decided to take advantage of the facility when his wife, 41, an airline company employee, returned to work after a leave of absence. The couple needed to place their 19-month-old son in childcare during work hours.
Although his wife’s airline company also runs an in-house child care center, it takes her a considerable amount of time to get to work and her work schedule is irregular, including overtime and overnight shifts. In contrast, Furukawa’s commute takes less than one hour by bus and train.
Furukawa’s wife said: “My husband thinks achieving a life-work balance and child rearing is not my problem but our problem. (Thanks to him) I am much calmer about returning to work.”
Naoki Atsumi, a research manager at Toray Corporate Business Research, Inc., said, “The fact that men use in-house child care centers means they are sharing more responsibility for raising their children and are taking a central role in balancing this with work.”
For example, if Furukawa’s child runs a fever while at his company’s child care center, he has to stop work and take the boy to hospital. Looking after his child this way involves more responsibility than giving his wife a hand, according to Atsumi. “It also means some corporations have become ready to accept these male employees,” he said.
In-house centers on the rise
According to Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry data, there were 3,869 in-house child care centers in fiscal 2008 and about 56,000 children were enrolled at these facilities. Although these figures decreased between fiscal 2000 and fiscal 2004, they have for several years been on the rise. The central government and Tokyo metropolitan government subsidize installation costs for corporations setting up in-house child care centers that meet government standards.
Under these circumstances, an increasing number of men are using in-house child care centers. More than 20 percent of the people using Shiseido Co.’s in-house child care center, open since 2003, are male employees. “The number of fathers who come to pick up their children is increasing year after year,” a company spokesperson said.
About 30 percent of households who use the ministry-run Kasumigaseki child care center opened in 2001 by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry registered because of the center’s proximity to the father’s workplace.
The male-to-female ratio of parents using the eight-year-old Yusen Child care Marunouchi facility at Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK Line) headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo is basically 2-to-3.
At Sumika Kids Tokyo, an in-house child care center that Sumitomo Chemical Co. opened at its Tokyo headquarters in August, one out of six parents is male.
“In our company, people think it’s natural that men use the facility,” a company official said.
“Balancing work and child rearing has long been considered the women’s role, but I think men also should play their part,” Atsumi said.
“It’s also reasonable that men carry kids (and their belongings) to work (for safety reasons),” said Atsumi, commenting on the physical effort involved in using crowded trains to take children to child care centers.