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LDP, Komeito vow to tackle day care waiting lists

JIJI

The government and the Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling coalition plan to compile early next week a package of emergency steps aimed at reducing the number of children on day care center waiting lists.

The dearth of day care places for children has emerged as a major issue for this summer’s Upper House election, following public outrage sparked by a recent blog post in which the writer complained that she may have to quit her job after her child was denied a place in a day care center.

Prime Minister and LDP leader Shinzo Abe held a meeting with Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki and dynamic society minister Katsunobu Kato at his office on Thursday and instructed them to draw up measures as early as possible.

“I want you to appropriately respond to the voices of people who are looking for day care centers,” Abe told the ministers.

The emergency package is expected to include a hike in salaries for day care teachers to attract more staff, informed sources said.

In its emergency proposal on Thursday, Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, called for raising their pay by about 4 percent, including a portion recommended by the National Personnel Authority. Day care teachers currently earn a monthly average salary of ¥220,000.

The government and the LDP-led coalition are also considering enabling day care centers to accept more children by easing restrictions on the required number of teachers.

The shortage of day care places is particularly severe in Tokyo and its surrounding areas, and in other major metropolitan centers. This is mainly because of difficulties securing sites for new facilities.

Against this background, the government and the ruling coalition are considering raising the upper limit on the number of children that facilities authorized as “small day care centers” can accept from the current level of 19, the sources said.

They will also call for the active use of day care facilities at workplaces and the launch of consultation services for parents looking for day care centers.

Also on Thursday, Abe met with LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki and reached an agreement to fully deal with the day care center issue.

The LDP and Komeito held meetings of their task forces on the matter the same day.

On top of the salary hike for teachers, Komeito is calling for a new subsidy program to support the construction of day care centers in areas where waiting lists are long.