Poll: 68% of Japanese Support Spreading Financial Burden in Fight against Low Birth Rate

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the inauguration ceremony for the Children and Families Agency in Tokyo, April 2023

Sixty-eight percent of people said they either “support” or “somewhat support” society as a whole bearing the cost of government measures to tackle the country’s low birth rate, according to a nationwide opinion survey recently conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

As to the government’s specific proposals, more respondents favored enhancing child care support systems than expanding cash payouts, highlighting a preference for environmental change over benefits.

By age group, 77% of those age 18 to 39 — the main cohort for births and child rearing — is “in favor” or “somewhat in favor” of sharing the cost of measures across society, above 68% of those age 40 to 59 and 64% of those age 60 or older, according to the survey.

As for a plan to cover childbirth expenses via public health insurance to allow people to give birth with peace of mind, 75% of respondents said it was “somewhat” or “very” promising.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents had high expectations for a plan to create a system that would allow anyone to use child care facilities regardless of one’s work situation. Fifty-nine percent of respondents had high expectations for a plan to expand income guarantees during child care leave to encourage men to take such leave, according to the survey.

Somewhat less persuasive was a plan to remove the income cap on child benefits and expand eligibility to all parents with children up to high school age, with 44% of respondents saying they had high expectations for the plan, according to the survey. A raise in child benefits for third and subsequent children was seen as highly promising by 46% of respondents.

The government intends to secure an additional ¥3.5 trillion or so a year for measures to tackle the low birth rate. As to how to fund the measures, 73% said they “oppose” or “somewhat oppose” tax hikes, 76% said they “oppose“ or “somewhat oppose” raising social insurance premiums, 70% said they “disagree” or “somewhat disagree” with cutting social security spending and 54% said they “disagree” or “somewhat disagree” with issuing government bonds.

The survey also found that 92% of respondents “agree” or “somewhat agree” that the low birth rate is a serious problem for Japan’s future. Asked if they thought it was easy to give birth and raise children in Japan, 77% of respondents said they “disagree” or “somewhat disagree” that it is easy.

The survey was conducted by mail with 3,000 randomly selected eligible voters from 250 locations across the country. The questionnaires were sent July 18 and 66%, or 1,972, were returned with valid responses by the Aug. 25 deadline.