• Demographics Minister Katsunobu Kato speaks at Bloomberg event
  • Japan to make it mandatory for companies to prevent harassment

Workplace harassment of women who take time off to give birth or take care of their babies must not be tolerated, according to Japan’s minister in charge of demographics and gender equality.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’sgovernment plans to introduce a legal requirement for corporations to have systems to prevent what has been dubbed "maternity harassment," Katsunobu Kato said in a presentation at Bloomberg’s Tokyo office on Friday.

Katsunobu Kato
Katsunobu Kato
Photographer: Toshfumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images

Kato, a father of four daughters, joined Abe’s cabinet last year as minister in charge of policies aimed at halting a slide in the working-age population. The government wants to bolster the birth rate and encourage women to stay in the workforce after they have children, with the aim of stopping the total population from falling below 100 million from the current 127 million. The labor force could shrink by as much as 40 percent by 2060 if current trends continue.

"Maternity harassment is an extremely big problem," Kato said. "There is pressure to give up work around childbirth. We should absolutely not allow this."

At present, about 60 percent of women quit work when they have their first child, Kato said. He called for clearer rules for irregular workers to take childcare leave and said the government will introduce legal changes to encourage equal treatment of full and part-time workers if necessary.

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