In an attempt to increase the nation’s population, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called for childcare support to be increased to an “unprecedented level” during his policy speech on Monday.
“Our country is on the brink of being unable to maintain the function of society,” said Kishida, in reference to Japan’s falling birthrate. “I’d like to realize an unprecedented level of measures.”
He announced he is making children a “top priority” for his administration, according to the Japan Times, saying, “Policies on children and child care are the most effective investment for the future.”
His official plan is expected prior to June, but he said that the government will likely increase child benefits for parents, including the childcare allowance. The government may possibly double its spending on children-related measures in the upcoming budget.
Currently, parents in Japan are given a childcare allowance of ¥15,000 ($115) every month from birth to age three. From that point, the allowance decreases to ¥10,000 until the child graduates from junior high.
In addition to the national efforts to increase the birth rate, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has said it will make childcare services free for the second children born to a couple, regardless of their income.
“Measures regarding the declining birthrate are a top priority for the Kishida administration,” said Masanobu Ogura, the minister in charge of the measures. “We want to break down the ministerial barriers and come up with bold unprecedented draft proposals.”
Though Japanese officials are looking to increase the birth rate, they are also considering approval of the abortion pill, which is counterproductive to their goal to increase the birth rate. Abortion has been legal in Japan for decades, but currently, the abortion pill is not permitted.
Japan’s fertility rate has been declining for years like many Western nations. The nation hit its lowest rate in 2005 at 1.26 but climbed up to 1.30 by 2021. Still, the number of newborns born in 2021 was the lowest ever recorded — 811,622.
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