Bill to establish children’s affairs agency to be submitted next year

The government and the ruling parties have started working on a bill to establish a children’s affairs agency that they aim to submit to the ordinary Diet session next year, according to government sources.

The government, which plans to appoint a cabinet minister to head the agency and a director general to be responsible for policies including child abuse prevention and support for infertility treatment, is aiming to launch the agency in fiscal 2022.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party will include the establishment of the agency in its party pledge for the lower house election to be held by autumn.

According to a proposal being considered by the government and the ruling parties, the new agency will integrate the Child and Family Policy Bureau of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the children and child-rearing headquarters of the Cabinet Office, among other entities.

The integration of different departments is symbolic of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s efforts to eliminate administrative sectionalism.

The new agency will be responsible for measures against child abuse; support for infertility treatment, pregnancy and childbirth; and measures against child poverty. Currently, the ministry and the Cabinet Office have overlapping responsibilities in these areas.

The government is considering giving the director general and cabinet minister in charge of the agency the authority to formulate integrated policies and conduct comprehensive coordination. It wants the agency to serve as a control tower that can respond swiftly to issues concerning children.

Some officials of the government and the ruling parties have called for restructuring the health ministry because of the wide range of its jurisdiction. It has also been argued that the Cabinet Office has overlapping duties with the ministry.