Panel calls for more corporate nurseries

More test times proposed to up qualified staff

JIJI

The Regulatory Reform Council proposed Wednesday that more companies and incorporated nonprofit organizations be publicly certified to run nursery schools to end the need for waiting lists for day care.

In proposals submitted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the government council called for fair treatment for private companies and NPOs by local governments in their screening of applications for publicly certified nursery school operations.

The market entry situation should be checked every year through fiscal 2017, it said.

Although deregulation in 2000 paved the way for companies and NPOs to operate publicly certified nursery schools, many regional governments are reluctant to approve applications from such entities, resulting in most day care facilities being run by social welfare corporations.

“We are determined to draw up an action plan and implement reform measures as early as possible,” Abe said in receiving the proposals.

The council discussed specific reforms at four working groups — dealing with health and medicine, energy and the environment, employment, and business creation. In the proposals, the panel listed some 130 targets of reforms with specific timetables for their implementation.

Abe’s economic growth strategy has already set a goal of reducing the number of children on nursery school waiting lists to zero by fiscal 2017.

In addition to the diversification of nursery school operators, the council proposed conducting nursery school teacher qualification examinations twice a year, up from once currently, in an attempt to increase qualified staff.

Among other reforms, the panel recommended that Internet sales of all nonprescription drugs be permitted after measures are taken for drugs with high risks of side effects.

It also called on the government to clarify screening standards for environmental assessments of planned coal-fired thermal power plants in order to shorten the processing time.

The reform package also calls for creating guidelines to take effect in the first half of fiscal 2014 to better protect personal information amid the era of “big data,” as vast amounts of electronic data accumulate, for example on customer shopping histories and other personal behavior, in line with the wider use of the Internet and social-networking services.

The council refrained from reaching a conclusion on whether to expand the scope of medical treatment that is or isn’t covered by the national health insurance program or on whether to relax regulations on employee dismissals by companies.