Child-rearing benefit system for non-regular workers to be created to tackle low birth rate

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo

To tackle the country’s low birth rate, the government and ruling parties have begun coordinating views to create a child-rearing support system for non-regular workers.

Through raising the sum of per capita monthly premiums of social insurance programs — pension, medical, nursing care and unemployment insurance — by a few hundred yen, the idea is to establish a system designed to support child-rearing by all generations, said several sources from the government and ruling parties.

The government is considering submitting a bill to the ordinary Diet session in 2024 so as to introduce the system in the fiscal year starting that April.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida set up on Friday a council of relevant ministries and agencies, chaired by Masanobu Ogura, state minister for dealing with the low birth rate, and instructed them to begin studying measures to tackle the issue “on an unprecedented level.”

“There are various kinds of insurance, including unemployment insurance and medical insurance,” Kishida said during an NHK TV program that aired Sunday. “We have to think about various financial resources and budgets, including what these various types of social insurance should encompass.”

He added, “We will have relevant policies reorganized first.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The new benefits system will cover workers who currently do not receive adequate support, including those who use a program of shorter working hours after childcare leave, non-regular workers who are not entitled to take child-rearing leave, and people who are self-employed. The new system is expected to be included in the discussion items that are to be compiled by the end of March by the newly established council.

To realize the new program, stable financial resources to the tune of several hundred billion yen up to ¥1 trillion must be secured annually, depending on the amount of benefit to be provided. For example, the maximum amount of childcare leave benefits is currently about ¥300,000 per month.

In most cases, social insurance premiums are split equally between workers and their employers. Such matters as the range of increases in social insurance premiums will be worked out in the future. The focus now will be on how to gain the understanding of those who have no children, those who have finished child-rearing, and the business community.

One of the proposals under consideration is to have the contributions be placed under the jurisdiction of the child and family agency, which is to be established in April, and be reserved in the child and child-rearing support account of the special account for pension funds.

In the Basic Policy on Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform, which is to be adopted by the Cabinet in June, Kishida intends to lay out a road map for doubling the child-related budget. The measures to secure related budgets are expected to include social insurance contributions, but the increase in child-support allowances, which Kishida has been eager to realize, will require additional financial resources in the trillions of yen.

As for these allowances, the government and the ruling parties have floated the idea of easing income limits, increasing allowances for households with many children and expanding the scope of those eligible to receive them.