• Yomiuri Editorial

Children’s Future Strategy / Implement All Possible Measures to Overcome Low Birth Rate

The key is whether it is possible to build a society in which the younger generation wants to have children. The government must simultaneously work to expand its measures to tackle the nation’s low birth rate and secure financial resources.

The government has recently approved the Children’s Future Strategy at a Cabinet meeting. This is a concrete embodiment of the “unprecedented measures” that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been advocating to tackle the low birth rate.

The situation involving Japan’s birth rate is severe. Last year, the number of newborns hit 770,000, the lowest level since 1899.

According to a central government survey, an increasing number of young people do not want to get married, or do not want to have children even if they do marry. The increase in non-regular workers, who tend to have difficulty in earning a stable income, is probably exacerbating the already low birth rate.

Reversing the birth rate will not be easy, but it is important to eliminate one by one the various factors that are keeping it low.

The strategy outlined measures that will be intensively implemented over the next three years.

Emphasis was placed on economic support. Starting next October, the government will abolish the income cap for child allowances and expand coverage to high school students. The allowance will be increased to ¥30,000 per month for the third and subsequent children of each household.

Many people feel that raising and educating children costs too much. Easing the financial burden on families raising young children is an understandable measure.

The measures also include realizing the concept of co-parenting by dual-income couples, in which both spouses are involved in child-rearing. The government also aims to raise the rate of men taking childcare leave from the current 17% to 85% and expand flexible work styles such as teleworking and working shorter hours.

The current situation in which women tend to shoulder more of the burden of childcare and household chores is one reason why young women hesitate to get married or have children. An environment should be created in which men can raise children without feeling uneasy about their workplace.

The government estimates that ¥3.6 trillion per year will be needed to implement the measures to combat the low birth rate. Of this amount, ¥1 trillion will be covered by a support fund system that will be borne broadly by the public.

Support funds will be collected from the public by adding a surcharge to medical insurance premiums paid by individuals. The amount is expected to be about ¥500 per person per month.

It is difficult to understand the government’s assertion that introducing the support fund system will not impose a burden in real terms. The government claims there will not be an additional burden if it thoroughly implements expenditure reforms and curbs increases in social insurance premiums. This is only hypothetical logic.

When support funds are actually deducted from salaries and pensions, more people will question the government’s claims. The government should provide a full explanation, including how the burden should be handled, rather than making statements that could be perceived as sophistry.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 25, 2023)