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In response to the nation’s declining birthrate, the government will hold the first meeting of an advisory panel July 17 to come up with measures to encourage couples to have more children, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kanezo Muraoka said Friday.

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto will call on the panel, which is to consist of 19 figures from the private sector, including researchers in the social sciences, to compile a report within a year’s time, Muraoka told a regular news conference.

“Matters related to marriages and births are something in which the government should not intervene,” the top government spokesman said. “However, the situation is serious enough to affect the future of the nation.

“It’s society’s responsibility to improve our social environment by removing obstacles that have prevented couples, that want children, from having them,” Muraoka said.

Two subcommittees will be created under the advisory panel, one of which is to discuss details of how to improve the working environment to encourage couples, and especially working women, to have more children.

The other subcommittee will discuss ways to promote the benefits of child-rearing. Both subcommittees will include members of the general public who would like to voice opinions on such issues, Muraoka said.

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