The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development called on the government Wednesday to review the “purpose and scope” of its key pledge to provide allowances to families with children starting in fiscal 2010.
The OECD recommended that Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s government channel more taxpayer money into preschool education and child care rather than giving a monthly allowance of ¥13,000 in fiscal 2010 and ¥26,000 from fiscal 2011 for each child of junior high school age or younger.
“Shifting resources to children aged 5 and below, in particular by providing more child care and early education, offers a number of benefits,” OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria said in Tokyo.
These benefits include possible increases in Japan’s female labor participation and the fertility rate, he said.
With adequate child care facilities, women in the club of 30 wealthy nations tend to have more children if they work, Gurria said, adding that aiming for increases in those two fields would help energize the Japanese economy.
“The Japanese government spends a relatively large amount on children who are 10 years old,” he said. “But it spends one of the lowest amounts on 5-year-olds.”
Gurria said the quality of education is likely to improve if the government concentrates more on preschool programs, as many studies have shown that “the rate of return on public investment in early childhood education is greater than for later years.”
In a set of recommendations for Japan, released Wednesday, the OECD said a range of policies for child-rearing, such as those also connected to health and tax, should be more integrated as a package to improve efficiency.
The government is finding it difficult to raise enough money to implement its key economic measures next year without increasing the nation’s already snowballing debt, which, estimated to be approaching 200 percent of gross domestic product, is the largest-ever among OECD countries.