In an effort to encourage more men to take childcare leave, the city government of Tsukuba, Japan, has announced that it will offer incentives to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the city whose male employees take at least 14 days of childcare leave.

The initiative, which is the first of its kind in Ibaraki Prefecture, will begin accepting applications this November. Eligible employees must be male residents of Tsukuba working for an SME with an office in the city. They must also take at least 14 days of childcare leave starting on or after October 2023, and work for at least one month after returning to the job.

The application period for the programme will end in March 2024.

Incentives will be paid according to the number of days of childcare leave taken, with payments ranging from 100,000 yen (US$660) for 14 to 27 days to 400,000 (US$2,600) for 84 days or more. If a substitute employee is secured, 50% of the cost will be added to the total incentive payment, up to 100,000 yen, reported The Mainichi.

This initiative comes shortly after the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced plans to provide subsidies to SMEs offering allowances to employees who cover for colleagues on parental leave.

Tatsuo Igarashi, Mayor of Tsukuba, said, “The smaller the organisation, the less likely the culture will treat men taking childcare leave as a given. We hope that by providing support as a government, organisations will understand this and allow male employees to take leave without worrying that they will cause trouble for others.”