Government to mull steps to address day care shortages

JIJI, Kyodo

The government said Friday it plans to draw up emergency measures by the end of the month to increase the capacity of day care centers, after an anonymous blog post purportedly written by a frustrated mother went viral online, sparking public outrage over the chronic shortage of centers.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told officials from the government and the ruling camp that parents face an uphill struggle to find day care centers in some regions.

Measures to address this situation need to be drawn up early, he said.

The move comes as opposition parties are ramping up criticism of the government over the issue ahead of an Upper House election this summer.

Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party plans to establish a new intraparty organization to discuss the issue. The body would present proposals jointly with its coalition partner Komeito.

The government has also launched a task force of officials from the welfare ministry, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and other relevant institutions.

The anonymous blogger who sparked public interest wrote in the blog post that she is at risk of losing her job because she couldn’t place her child in a day care center.

“My child didn’t get a slot in day care yesterday. Great,” the author said in her entry posted in mid-February. “Now have to quit my job. Damn you, Japan.”

She also lamented that she cannot “play an active role,” in a pointed reference to Abe’s stated pursuit to “achieve a society in which all 100 million people in the nation can play active roles.”

On Wednesday, Shiori Yamao, a lawmaker of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, joined other women in submitting a petition signed by some 28,000 people to welfare minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki, demanding that the government act to reduce the number of children in such a situation.

After the post went viral online, an opposition lawmaker mentioned it in a Lower House session on Feb. 29. Abe, when asked to comment on it, said, “There is no way to verify the post since it is anonymous.”

His comment triggered a backlash from parents who staged a rally in front of the Diet on Saturday to show that they share the views of the anonymous blogger.

In the face of growing attention over the issue, Abe reiterated at an Upper House committee session on Monday that his government is “doubling its pace” to reduce the number of children on waiting lists for spots at day care centers.