• Kyodo News

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In a report released Friday, the government called for a favorable work-life balance to counter Japan’s falling birthrate, even as another report showed that its measures to raise the incomes of single-mother families remain little used.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s fiscal 2007 white paper on single-mother households, only 26 percent of local governments have implemented a state-sponsored program to subsidize companies promoting single mothers who work as part-timers to full-time status.

Under the program, such employers receive a single 300,000 yen incentive payment per person, but the measure has not been widely used “because local governments and companies have no common ground,” a ministry official said.

The report also showed that only 54 percent of local governments have carried out a program to pay benefits to single mothers who attend institutions to get a qualification, such as for nursing, in order to get a better job.

Critics say the support programs have failed to catch on as they do not address the actual needs of single mothers — for example, single mothers are not guaranteed an income while they receive job training.

In Japan, the number of single-mother households grew 28 percent in the five years through 2003 to about 1,230,000. The average annual income of such households is 2,330,000 yen, or 40 percent of the national average.

Due to fiscal strains, however, the government is slated to cut part of its child-care allowances for single-mother households from next April, so the welfare ministry and local governments have worked together to help single mothers become financially independent.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed his government to start full-scale work to achieve a favorable work-life balance after its strategic panel on Japan’s falling birthrate set it as the priority in its midterm basic policy report adopted Friday.

The panel plans to have the report reflected in the state’s basic policy outline set to be formulated by the end of June.

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