The government on Friday adopted a set of measures to fight the low birthrate through 2020, setting an extremely ambitious goal of boosting men who take paternity leave immediately after a child is born to 80 percent, which is the same rate as women who take maternity leave.
The government said it will also promote matchmaking, set numerical targets for getting men more involved in child care, and provide more support for families with three or more children.
In an outline of the steps, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet called for intensive efforts over the next five years to face a “critical situation” where Japan’s dwindling child count could shake its societal and economic foundations.
While the government wants more men on paternity leave, it has no statistics showing how many actually do so.
Aside from this, the government is also aiming to boost the ranks of men who take state-subsidized child care leave — for a maximum of one year — to 13 percent from 2.03 percent in fiscal 2013. It also hopes to raise the time spent by those with children 6 and younger to 150 minutes a day from just 67 minutes in 2011.
The government is also targeting the percentage of women continuing to work after giving birth to their first child, aiming for 55 percent, up from 38 percent in 2010.
The measures also address the nation’s long working hours and urges employers to prevent paternity and maternity harassment.
It sets targets to increase the number of children accepted temporarily at child care facilities to 11.34 million and that of sick children receiving child care to 1.5 million, both three times current figures.
To support families with three or more children, the government will consider allowing more families to enroll their third child at child care centers free of charge and urge municipal governments to prioritize those children in admission to nursery schools.
In Japan, the fertility rate — the average number of children a woman will have over her lifetime — began falling from 4.54 in 1947 to as low as 1.26 in 2005. It has recovered slightly in recent years, hitting at 1.43 in 2013.
Japan could halt its population decline at about 100 million in 2060 if it raised the fertility rate to 1.8 by 2030 and to 2.07 by 2040, according to the government’s long-term population plan compiled late last year.