The falling birth rate is one of the problems of greatest public concern in Japan in recent years. While support for working parents is widely recognized as a key solution for this problem, the government has not adopted strict regulation, but tried to attract voluntary support from employers. To discuss the effect of such 'soft regulation', we identify characteristics to explain the responsiveness of firms to such an institutional demand. Using a data set of about 750 Japanese firms compiled from several sources, we conducted factor analysis to identify factors underlying firms' support for working parents, and then examined the association of those factors with various firm characteristics by regression analysis. As a result, progressiveness and time-flexibility are identified as the underlying factors. While they are positively associated with firm size, degree of foreign ownership and attention to corporate social responsibility, there are significant differences in the pattern of association with several characteristics regarding the presence of female workers and the participation of labour unions. Difference across business sectors is also significant.
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