With More Women Working, 23,500 Children on Day Care Waiting List
New Government Plan Delays Target to Eliminate Waiting List to March 2021
post date : 2017.07.20
These articles present editorials from leading Japanese newspapers (Asahi, Sankei, Nikkei, Mainichi, Yomiuri) covering the same theme.
The Asahi shimbun: Support for raising children: eliminating day care waiting lists comes first
The Sankei Shimbun: New day care waiting list plan: solve issues to eliminate wait lists
The Nikkei: Prioritize reducing day care waiting lists as investment in human resources
The Mainichi Shimbun: Delay in goal to reduce day care waiting lists a major embarrassment
The Yomiuri Shimbun: Further delays in eliminating day care waiting lists unforgivable
The issue of children on a waiting list for day cares needs to be handled without waiting any longer. In June, the national government announced a new plan to eliminate the waiting list by March 2021, pushing the deadline back by three years from March 2018. Nearly 15 years have passed since former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s administration announced their “zero waiting children strategy.” In attempts to eliminate the waiting list, over the past five years approximately 530,000 new day care spots have been made, but this was insufficient to match the increased demand as more women began working as well. As of April 2017, there were 23,500 children on the waiting list for day care. The new plan aims to establish another 220,000 spots over three years starting in 2018, with another 100,000 spots by March 2023, for a total of 320,000, anticipating that even more women will enter the workforce.
All five national dailies took up this issue in their editorials, criticizing the government’s low estimate for day care demand, and pointing out issues such as the serious shortage of day care workers and the need to improve their working conditions, the difficulty of finding sites to build new day cares in cities (where waiting lists are particularly long), and the decline in quality of day cares. Some of the editorials also called for considered debate on the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan’s proposal for “children’s insurance,” increasing social insurance premiums for workers with the goal of providing free day care in the future.
■ With Delayed Goal, Government Must Take Serious Action
The Asahi (June 11) criticized the three-year delay of the deadline for eliminating the waiting list for day cares, stating, “It is clear that they significantly underestimated the potential demand for day care.… Before the debate can start, the government has to present a comprehensive menu of actions planned and the scale of the budget necessary…. The government must show it is serious in order to succeed (at eliminating the waiting list) this time.”
The Mainichi (June 1) was also critical of the insufficient measures taken by the government, stating, “The Abe government needs to investigate the cause of the delay and work out effective solutions,” calling for every effort to be made to increase the number of spots available for 1- and 2-year-olds, for which there is particularly high demand.
The Yomiuri (June 2), while stating that the demand estimates were undeniably inaccurate, gave the new plan some praise: “Significantly increasing the number of day care spots to encourage women’s participation in the workforce is a sound plan.” However, the paper also noted that the actual number of children waiting for day cares, if children whose parents had given up on getting a spot and were forced to take leave from their jobs instead were also included, would be “over 90,000.”
The Nikkei (June 4) argued that eliminating the waiting list for day cares would have an impact on the declining birthrate, and would also be an important investment in children who will be supporting the country in the future: “There is an urgent need to create an environment allowing people to work and raise children simultaneously. No more delays can be permitted.”
The Sankei (June 3), while stating that “delaying the deadline was unavoidable” due to demand increasing more than originally anticipating, noted that there were still many issues remaining to be solved with the new plan. With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stating he will end this problem “once and for all,” the paper suggested, “There is a need to achieve definite results, instead of just trying to make the numbers fit.”
■ Difficulties in Finding Day Care Workers
Almost every paper mentioned the lack of day care workers and the need to find funding for the new plan as specific issues for eliminating the waiting list for day care.
The Yomiuri, commenting on the shortage of day care workers, noted, “It is not uncommon for newly built facilities to be unable to find enough workers, and be forced to decrease the number of children they can accept at the day care.” Although the average monthly salary for day care workers will be increased by approximately 6,000 yen starting this year, in addition to a premium of up to 40,000 yen being paid based on skills and experience, the paper called for further improvements to be made, stating, “There is still major inequality compared to other industries.”
The Mainichi noted that while for 3-year-olds, the law requires one worker per 20 children, but for 1- and 2-year-olds, which make up the largest proportion of children on the waiting list, there must be one worker per 6 children. The paper also pointed out that while some municipalities are offering incentives such as higher wages and housing subsidies, there are also “municipalities that are forced to reduce the capacity of newly opened child care centers due to staff shortages.” Noting that there are over 700,000 “dormant day care workers” who are certified but not working in the field, the paper emphasized that improving working conditions for day care workers will “generate only limited results.”
The Asahi pointed out the difficulty of finding sites to build new day cares in cities, and called for steps to be taken to ensure the quality of day cares: “Recently, there have been problems with low-quality day cares, including cases of overstating worker numbers and abusing children.”
■ Calls for Considered Debate on LDP Proposal of “Children’s Insurance”
The Asahi, on the topic of the proposal within the LDP of establishing “children’s insurance” to fund measures to eliminate the day care waiting list, noted that it was originally considered to fund free education for children (one of the LDP’s campaign promises), and brought up concerns: “Although the goal is to provide economic support for families raising children by providing them with benefits, further increasing pension premiums will concentrate the burden on those who are currently working.”
The Nikkei stressed, “Starting from the position of making education free is out of the question,” and called for further debate on what exactly will be made free, after first creating a plan to eliminate the day care waiting list. With Japan having the worst budget deficit of any developed nation, the paper argued, “A proper funding source must be found, after carefully examining annual expenditure on social welfare, so this new plan may be definitively put into action.”
The Yomiuri refrained from placing judgement on the “children’s insurance” plan of collecting premiums from the current work force, stating, “Further debate should be held on how society as a whole should cover the cost of educating the next generation.” The Sankei also noted, “Proposals have been made for making early-childhood education and day care free, but first the actual needs of the populace must be determined.”
*English translations of The Mainichi is from The Mainichi, respectively. Those for The Yomiuri, The Asahi, The Nikkei, and The Sankei are provisional. The content of this page was made by the Foreign Press Center Japan and does not reflect the opinion of the Japanese Government or any other organization.