Hastings Journal on Gender and the Law


Talia Saypoff


More so than in any other area, law that involves family issues tends to lack international consensus. This is certainly the case for parental leave law. This Note examines parental leave and family care leave laws, within the broader context of women's employment, in the United States and Japan. First, this Note offers an overview of the evolution of parental leave laws in the United States and Japan. Next, this Note looks at how many people take advantage of the leave offered and seek to understand parents' underlying motives. The United States, which has arguably the worst parental leave laws among developed nations, shows relatively high rates of working mothers. In Japan, a nation with a progressive parental leave package, considerably fewer women take advantage of available leave, and even fewer return to work after childbirth. The results regarding fathers taking parental leave are even starker. This Note argues it is the cultural acceptability of taking advantage of legal options, as well as the traditional notions of family and gender roles within a culture, that most influence the utilization of parental leave laws. Finally, this Note looks to the future. Both the United States and Japan have new policies in place that are meant to support career mothers and fathers. In order to effect change, these initiatives should be targeted at changing mindsets and cultural standards, as opposed to solely changing legislation.