Government subsidies for day care centers and hospitals specializing in taking care of sick children will rise in April as the Abe administration seeks to increase the female workforce, officials said Tuesday.
The administration plans to disburse tens of millions of yen per facility to cover construction expenses and provide funds to cover nurse salaries and transportation fees for bringing sick children to the specialized centers.
The subsidies will be financed with ¥2.7 billion in corporate contributions to be raised starting in fiscal 2016, the officials said.
Regular day care centers do not allow ill children to attend for a specified period of time, forcing parents to take time off from work to look after them.
By increasing financial aid to the special centers, which often fall into the red, the government hopes more day care centers and hospitals will enter the business and create a system in which 1.5 million sick children a year can be taken care of by fiscal 2019.
As of fiscal 2014, a total of 570,000 sick children used special day care services at 1,840 facilities nationwide, mostly operated by day care centers and children’s hospitals.
The percentage of 1- and 2-year-olds that used the service in 2015 grew to 38.1 percent from 35.1 percent the year before, and the figure is expected to reach 48 percent in 2018, when the government plans to resolve the shortage of regular day care centers that has hindered many women from returning to work after giving birth, according to the health ministry.
But many doctors and others have been hesitant to launch such services as 70 percent of day care centers looking after sick children posted a deficit in 2013, with many of them hiring more staff than required by the government to ensure children’s safety while the number of users tends to drop during summer.
To remove the financial hurdle, the government has already raised subsidies for operating special day care centers from fiscal 2015 and now plans to take additional steps from this April.