Panel to seek ¥6.8 trillion to boost low birthrate

Kyodo News

The task force assigned to combat Japan’s declining birthrate will call for boosting annual fiscal expenditures by more than 56 percent in a report to be finalized later this month, a draft says.

The report will estimate that up to ¥6.77 trillion in annual central and local government expenditures will be required to address the problem, up ¥2.44 trillion from its current budget of ¥4.33 trillion.

The council for Japan’s Priority Strategies to Support Children and Families, chaired by Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, is slated to adopt its final report on Dec. 18.

The draft also calls for establishing an integrated national support system for people raising the next generation of children by reviewing the programs for medical insurance, employment insurance, child welfare, maternal and child health, and other related areas.

As advance measures to be taken in fiscal 2008, which starts in April, the draft proposes clarifying the legal status of entities providing temporary child-care services, and institutionalizing a program for caregivers who accept the children of other people into their homes.

With regard to the cost of the additional measures, the panel estimates ¥2 trillion will be required to help parents strike a better balance between work and child-rearing, such as through child-care leave, ¥260 billion for increasing child-care and other individual allowances, and ¥180 billion to prepare local child-care support centers.

At the same time, it requires that the financing of such expenditures not be passed on to the next generation, and calls for a new scheme for central and local governments, businesses and individuals to bear the burden with an eye on tax reform. But it does not present any other details on securing the financial resources.

The draft report warns that a further drop will lead to a rapid decline in Japan’s working population and have a “great impact on the country’s economy.”

As a central pillar of measures to combat such a possibility, the draft calls for attaining a better balance between work and family life by reviewing working practices.