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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 June 21 - 27  > Gov’t should make serious efforts to stem Japan’s declining birthrate
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2017 June 21 - 27 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Gov’t should make serious efforts to stem Japan’s declining birthrate

June 21, 2017

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The annual demographic statistics recently published by the Welfare Ministry shows how difficult it is to bring up children in Japan.

According to the ministry data, the number of births in 2016 fell to below one million, and the total fertility rate also declined to 1.44. This figure, far from the benchmark rate of 2.07 to maintain a country’s population, remains well below 1.92 in France and 1.85 in Sweden.

The number of births in Japan decreased by more than 28,000 to 976,979 in 2016 compared to a year earlier. The number of newborn babies fell to less than one million for the first time since data collection started in 1899.

The 2015 cross-national research conducted by the Cabinet Office indicates that the numbers of children a couple wants to have are all around two in the three developed countries surveyed - Japan, France, and Sweden. In Japan, 87% of unmarried couples responded that they want to have a child, which is about 65% in France. Over 60% of couples in France and Sweden said that they plan to have as many children as they want while only 46% said so in Japan.

According to that research, 50% of couples in Japan cited Japan’s extremely high cost of childrearing and education as the reason they cannot have more children. Many respondents in Japan also complained that childcare services are very poor and that it is almost impossible for them to continue to work while raising children under the current working conditions.

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s government has no plan to deal with these complaints, and just producing meaningless slogans such as “the dynamic engagement of all citizens” and “the revolution for human resources development”.

With regard to the serious issue of children on the waiting lists for admission to public childcare centers, the Abe administration has postponed its zero-waiting list plan for three years until the end of fiscal 2020. On top of that, the government is focusing on deregulation to allow cramming more children into daycare facilities while turning its back on increasing the number of authorized nursery centers and improving working conditions for childcare workers. PM Abe’s “work-style reforms” will also lead to officially approving excessively long working hours and be no use in reducing pay disparities between regular and non-regular workers.

In order to create a society where people can bring up children without anxiety, it is important to raise our voices in unison to change politics.
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