The government has decided in principle to provide an additional 15,000 after-school day-care centers for elementary school children by fiscal 2004, using vacant classrooms, government officials said.

The plan is aimed at clearing a backlog of elementary school children on waiting lists for the day-care centers.

While there are currently 33,000 children on day-care waiting lists, the number actually needing the service could be as high as 100,000 because many parents have given up applying, the officials said.

The government will present the plan to a special panel under its committee for gender equality and include it in a final report to be compiled in mid-June.

There may be some dispute over the target year of fiscal 2004, however, as the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has been pushing for waiting lists to be cleared by fiscal 2003, experts said.

The government may also hand management of the new centers to private-sector or nonprofit organizations.

Most day-care centers are currently run by municipal governments.

According to the national association handling after-school day-care, there were about 380,000 children at 10,976 centers nationwide as of May 2000.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.