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Support eyed to prevent preschoolers from slipping through the net

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in Chiyoda Ward Tokyo

The government has launched a fact-finding survey in a bid to boost support for children and parents, amid concerns that a reluctance to send youngsters to preschools during the coronavirus pandemic has increased the risk of children becoming isolated and abused.

The government intends to use the results of the survey to strengthen support for those who have not yet started elementary school and are not attending daycare facilities or kindergartens.

An expert committee is conducting the survey from late August to early October to learn about the issues and challenges involved.

The committee, which plans to compile a report by the end of this fiscal year, is interviewing officials from local governments which conduct home visits and private organizations that support families.

The government will also invite municipalities to participate in a pilot project next fiscal year that will involve securing spots at daycare centers with available capacity for preschoolers who have not been attending such facilities.

According to a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry estimate, approximately 1,820,000 preschoolers nationwide were not attending licensed daycare centers, kindergartens or certified nurseries in fiscal 2019, accounting for about 30% of children age 5 and under.

However, the exact number of young children not receiving formal preschool education is difficult to establish as some of the children in the fiscal 2019 estimate likely attended unlicensed daycare facilities.